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USU Brigham City STEM Club Enters NASA Competition

Thursday, Mar. 07, 2013

engineering team members from Brigham City campus
The team is composed of six USU Brigham City engineering students from a wide variety of disciplines and is advised by Wade Goodridge, a civil engineer and professor in the engineering education department.

A group of highly-motivated Utah State University engineering students believe they can not only beat the other teams at this year’s NASA Lunabotics competition, they are fairly certain they can do it in a dominant fashion. The annual international competition challenges university students to create a robot that can theoretically mine as much “dirt” (regolith) as possible from the surface of the moon. Historically, the winning teams have mined about 200 kilograms.


“Our design and time-budget predict that we will beat this record by five orders of magnitude,” said David Sphar, team member and computer engineering student. “Our design has never been seen at any of the three previous competitions.”


The team is composed of six USU Brigham City engineering students from a wide variety of disciplines and is advised by Wade Goodridge, a civil engineer and professor in the engineering education department. The students work on the project outside of their regular undergraduate studies.


“This team has shown great initiative, sacrificing many nights to develop an innovative design that I think will turn heads and reward both them and the Brigham City campus with first prize,” said Goodridge. “It is no small commitment for these students to simultaneously develop this robot while still pursuing an engineering education and they truly set themselves apart by tackling this project.”


Goodridge feels the competition presents a chance for the team to see how it measures up against other engineering students as well as add a highly regarded competition to the members’ resumes.


“These competitions offer a valuable opportunity for students to compete both nationally and internationally with teams from Purdue, Virginia Tech, Embry-Riddle, Arizona State, Mexico, Poland, Bangladesh, Canada and India to name just a few,” said Goodridge. “This type of competition allows students to experience an authentic design problem typical to the engineering discipline and to show NASA that they have the ‘Right Stuff.””


Sphar believes the moon’s low gravity, lack of atmosphere and abundance of regolith make it an ideal hub for deep space exploration. New technology has the potential to use the regolith as an oxygen resource for astronauts as well as a fuel source for rockets.


“The moon has one-sixth the gravity of the Earth and no atmosphere which makes it the perfect place to create a space-station capable of sending spacecraft, robots and even people to deep space at dramatically reduced costs,” said Sphar. “The NASA Lunabotics competition not only inspires young students with this dream, it gives NASA a way to explore different ideas and technologies that will help make it a reality.”


Though supported by the university, the team must also raise funds from a variety of sources to obtain components and materials for its robot. Concise Motion Systems, 80/20 and Nucor have all donated to the project.


The students are members of  Club BLAST (Bright Leaders Attracting STEM Talent), a  community outreach club dedicated to getting k-12 students interested in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Members put on various activities designed to inspire young children, including hosting engineering day for the 2012 summer science camp and introducing elementary and junior-high children to various engineering disciplines, including electrical, mechanical, civil and computer.


The NASA Lunabotics competition will take place in May in Cape Canaveral, Fla.


For more information about Club Blast, visit its Facebook page.


More information about the NASA Lunabotics Competition is found at its website.


For more information about USU Engineering Education, see its website.


Contact and Writer: Paige Pagnucco, 435-797-1429, paige.pagnucco@usu.edu

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