Department of Computer Science

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Montana Tech Robotic Mining Club Places in Top 10


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.  

Wiles adds, “We would like to thank our sponsors Donna Sims, Glacier Bank, L&J Machine, MT Outdoor Sports, Caesar Creek Software, Helsinki Bar, Weitzel Signs, Town Pump, Water & Environmental Tech, Dale and Shirley Barnum, and Montana Tech.” 

mining robot

The robot was still under construction (left) in April. The team worked hard to complete it in time to ship it in early May so it would arrive in time for the competition. Ross Mitchell (CS Senior) aided in the construction, but did not attend the competition.

The 2015 competitors were: Auburn University, Case Western Reserve University, College of DuPage, Colorado School of Mines, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Iowa State University, John Brown University, Kent State University, Merrimack College, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Mississippi State University, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Montana State University, Montana Tech, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, Oakton Community College, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, Purdue University, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Temple University, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Texas A&M International University, The University of Akron, The University of Alabama, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of Arkansas, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of Hawaii-Hilo, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Iowa, University of Miami, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of New Hampshire, University of North Dakota, University of Portland, University of Utah, University of Vermont, University of Virginia, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, Washington University in St. Louis, Wright State University.  

Teams competed in five major competition categories including: on-site mining, systems engineering paper, outreach project, slide presentation (optional), and team spirit (optional). Additionally, teams earned bonus points for mined and deposited BP-1 regolith simulant in the competition attempts.   The team with the most points from all categories won the grand prize, the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, and received a trophy, team certificates for each member, Kennedy Space Center launch invitations and a $5,000 team scholarship. Awards for other categories included monetary team scholarships, a school trophy or plaque, team certificates, and Kennedy Space Center launch invitations.