Words byAshton Vogelhuber
Photo submitted by the Kent State Robotics Team
The Kent State Robotics Team is gearing up to compete in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition in May.
“It’s a simulation of mining on Mars,” Sarah Rosenbaum, the team’s president, says.
Rosenbaum, majoring in German literature, culture and translation, joined the team when she was a freshman and has competed at the NASA competition all three years. She says the competition is her favorite.
The competition requires college teams to build an excavator robot to mine regolith, a volcanic ash that comes from underwater volcanoes. The material is like those found on the surface of Mars.
The robot must be able to navigate through an obstacle course in a pit to reach the digging area. There, regolith is mined and brought back to the set-up area to be put into collector bins.
“A lot of teams have problems getting their robot to move, so it’s a big accomplishment to have your robot move, mine and bring [regolith] back,” Rosenbaum says.
The goal of the competition is to mine as much regolith as possible, with 10 kilograms being the minimum amount. In their first year, the team mined 43 kilograms.
The regolith is highly toxic which requires a team member in the pit to a wear full suit, dust mask, gloves and goggles. This member can do preliminary tests on the robot for approximately five minutes before moving to the side to watch.
The robot is controlled electronically by the rest of the team in a trailer.
“We’ve always placed at or above the middle in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition,” Darwin Boyd, a faculty adviser for the team, says. “Some of the schools have a lot more members than we have and have been doing this for decades.”
As a requirement for the competition, the team does outreach in the community before the competition. The team plans to partner with Tallmadge Middle School’s robotics team as they compete at the National Robotics Competition.
Last year, they formed a program with Brimfield Elementary School once a month on Saturdays. They taught participants the basics of coding and the different parts needed to build a robot.
“It’s important to get kids interested at a younger age so they have a foundation to start from,” Rosenbaum says.
Ashton Vogelhuber is the technology reporter for The Burr.