A team of engineering and computer science students from Montana Tech competed in the 2015 NASA Robotic Mining Competition May 18-22 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For the first time ever, the team placed in the top 10 during the On-site Mining Competition. “We're ecstatic with how well we did,” noted Erin Wiles, a graduate student in the Montana Tech Electrical Engineering Department and president of Montana Tech’s Robotic Mining Club. “We were able to dig an average of 11kg of the regolith and deposit it in the collector bin. We know we can do even better next year.”
The team, named Team Orediggers, consists of Josh Lee (Software Engineering Senior), Mack Sutherland (Software Engineering Senior), Jacob McLean, Andrew Lamping, Erin Wiles, Anthony Ottolini-Messuri, Krista Stone, Ross Mitchell (CS Senior not pictured), Joshua Bekel, and Jordan Watson. Bryce Hill, assistant professor in the Electrical Engineering Department served as faculty advisor and Nick Pollman, Montana Tech alumnus assisted the team during the competition.
The competition is for university-level students to design and build a mining robot that can traverse the simulated Martian terrain features, excavate basaltic regolith and deposit the regolith into a Collector Bin within 10 minutes. The complexities of the challenge include the abrasive characteristics of the basaltic regolith simulant, the weight and size of the limitations of the mining robot, and the ability to control it from a remote center. The scoring for the mining category requires teams to consider a number of design and operation factors such as dust tolerance and projection, communications, vehicle mass, energy/power required, and autonomy.