The seven-member MTSU Raider Robotics team is competing this week against 38 U.S. and 20 international undergraduate and graduate student teams in the third annual Lunabotics Mining Competition.
The event is being held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Teams have had to design and build a remote-controlled or autonomous robot for the competition, which got under way today. Some of the concepts could be incorporated into the design of future NASA robots, said Tracy Young of NASA.
In the competition, the teams’ designs, known as “lunabots,” will go head-to-head to determine which can excavate and deposit the most simulated lunar dirt within 10 minutes.
“We feel pretty good about our chances,” said Aaron Thompson, an MTSU senior from Smyrna and formerly from Clarksville, Tenn., and team leader. “This year, we got a lot of things completed early.”
Other team members include William “Will” Wang of La Vergne; Ryan Miller of Murfreesboro and formerly from Chattanooga; Honer Sofi of Nashville and formerly from Bridgeport, Conn.; Alejandro Angel of Madison, Tenn.; Rosh Harris Greenidge of Hendersonville, Tenn.; and Jordan Qualls and Jay Perry of Murfreesboro. Qualls is formerly from Obion County. A native of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., Perry stayed in Murfreesboro to fulfill a teaching obligation on campus.
MTSU Raider Robotics, which learned May 23 what number it has drawn and the order in which it will compete, performed its pre-competition test May 22. Thompson said the team learned aboutf a problem that would need to be fixed before it entered the competition.
“Everything works,” Thompson said of the drive and dumping systems. “We need to get a one-inch extension in the front. If we get that right, we have a pretty good shot.”
Thompson said rains across middle Tennessee two weekends before the team left to go to Florida prevented testing their robot outdoors. Earlier this week, they tested it three times in the sand pit before doing the official practice run, he added.
Thompson was a part of MTSU’s 2011 team, which placed in the top 25. He said organizers “cut everything in half in terms of robot dimensions and dump collection” for this year’s competition.
Most of the MTSU team members work in addition to taking classes. Thompson is an engineering intern at Tower Automotive, and he is married and the father of three children. Qualls also is married.
Dr. Ahad Nasab, professor in the Department of Engineering Technology, serves as adviser to the team and will join them at the competition May 24.
Young said the competition is designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or the STEM fields, which are critical to NASA’s missions. Highlights of the event will air on NASA Television’s Video File. Visit www.nasa.gov/ntv for downlink information, schedules and streaming video links.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)