NASA RMC 2015 //
After completing the ATMAE competition the robotics team and I set our eyes on something more ambitious, the NASA Robotic Lunar Mining Competition. Many of our professors tried to talk us out of it but we were persistent in taking on this challenge. Our advisers were probably right in warning us since this would be the second robot our robotics team has ever made in Kent State's history but our drive will be shown to be enough to overcome this. We "compromised" with our advisers by saying we will start to work on it now but not compete till next year since that year's competition was only a semester away.
The first thing we did as a team was review the rules and watch hours of videos of past competitions and took note of what worked and what didn't work. This is what we came up with:
From the rules:
1. Weight: if you looked at the point system in rules linked above you will be able see how valuable weight is. But in practice weight means everything. With the cost per kg to launch something to space being about $13,000 on the Delta IV rocket it is the most important thing.
2. Reaching the 30cm mark. In the simulated martian environment there will be gravel at a depth of 30cm. The gravel is meant to simulate ice which is the ultimate goal of these robots.
3. Automation: This extremely important since direct human to robot communication on mars is impracticable. Any command you give can take up to ~30min to reach the robot and any feedback to the operator will take just as long. In the competition automation is yields great amount of points to a team the successfully accomplishes this.
From watching other teams:
1. Communication: In many of the videos we watched of past robots the majority of them failed to even start and that was due to communication issues. The operator failed to establish communication with the robot. Even though communication with a robot in this manner is impracticable in application this was an important issue for the competition.
2. Drive Systems: If a team managed to established communication they ran into a problem with their robot not being able to traverse the course. We noticed many teams used very small wheels which cut into the ground and would just spin in place.
From our team's past experience:
Time management: We realized the importance of this when we worked till 4am, the night before the ATMAE competition in the hotel's hallway. This is clearly something we can not have happen again especially for a project of this scale. We created a gantt chart to try and keep us on schedule so we do not fall behind. This worked well since it forced us to make decisions sooner.