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UGA College of Engineering places sixth at NASA Rover Challenge

A team from the University of Georgia College of Engineering posted a top 10 finish at the 2018 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. In its first trip to the annual competition at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, UGA finished sixth out of more than 60 other colleges and universities.

The event challenges high school and college students to create a vehicle designed to traverse the simulated surface of another world. The student teams design, build, and test technologies that enable rovers to perform in a wide variety of environments.

Two teams of students from the College of Engineering’s capstone senior design course came together to build the UGA rover. One team worked on the rover’s wheel and braking systems design, while the other focused on steering and drivetrain design.

“Every student displayed tremendous enthusiasm and passion as well as strong design skills and teamwork in meeting the design requirements and successfully competing in the race for the first time from UGA,” said Ramana Pidaparti, associate dean for academic affairs and assessment and the team’s mentor. “It’s awesome to see the Bulldog spirit displayed at this national event and I’m very proud we were able to provide this unique design capstone experience for students as part of our engineering design program.”

The College of Engineering’s rover team included Stephanie Ferrera, Michael Field, Theophile Tayo, Blake Wilson, Andrew Brookins, and Colton Morgan (wheel and braking systems design) along with Mary DeReuil, Timothy Borem, Nathan Su, John Green, Matthew Price, and Kadiatou Bah (steering and drivetrain design).

The team gave its rover the nickname “Red Beard,” in honor of the College of Engineering’s research machinist, Terry Walsh. Walsh assisted the team by training students in welding, machining and other manufacturing aspects of the project.

The course for the competition required two students, one female and one male, to traverse a terrain of one half mile that included a simulated field of asteroid debris — boulders from 5 to 15 inches across; an ancient stream bed with pebbles approximately six inches deep; and erosion ruts and crevasses of varying widths and depths. Price and DeReuil drove the UGA rover in the competition.

The challenge’s weight and time requirements encouraged compactness, light weight, high performance and efficiency. Before they navigate the course, rover entries are tested to see that they would fit into a lander equipment bay, a maximum five feet by five feet by five feet in volume.

Teams earn points by assembling the rover in the allotted time; designing a rover that is lightweight; successfully completing course obstacles; performing tasks throughout the mission; and meeting pre- and post-challenge requirements.

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