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Montana Tech Team Competing in NASA Robotic Mining Competition


A team of students from Montana Tech will compete in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition this week at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The team consists of 10 students and Bryce Hill, faculty advisor and assistant professor in the Electrical Engineering Department. The students are: Paul Parsons, president of the Club, Metallurgical Engineering; Arthur Davison, Welding Engineering; Nick Pollman, Electrical Engineering; Brenna Andrews, Electrical Engineering; Craig Smith, Metallurgical Engineering; Cade Foster, Software Engineering; Luke Suttey, Metallurgical Engineering; John Decker, Electrical Engineering; Zack Stewart, Metallurgical Engineering; Josh Lee, Software Engineering, and Frank Sholey, Software Engineering (not on the trip). The team along with the robot traveled to Florida for the competition that runs from Monday, May 19 through Friday, May 23. 

The Fifth Annual NASA Robotic Mining 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 will require teams to consider a number of design and operation factors such as dust tolerance and projection, communications, vehicle mass, energy/power required, and autonomy.

According to Hill, “The Montana Tech robot is employing both a track system for driving and a clamshell to scoop the material. Our students have spent the past year designing and building the robot.”

Teams competing include: Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Clark College, Colorado School of Mines, Temple University, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, The University of Akron, The University of Alabama, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University- Daytona Beach, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, Hampton University, Iowa State University, Cyclone Space Mining, John Brown University, Eaglenauts, Kapi‘olani Community College, Miami University, Middle Tennessee State University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Mississippi State University, Montana State University, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Arkansas, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of New Hampshire, University of North Dakota, University of South Alabama, University of Virginia, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, Oakton Community College, Purdue, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Virginia Tech, Washington University in St. Louis, West Virginia University, and Wright State University. 

Teams will compete in up to five major competition categories including: on-site mining, systems engineering paper, outreach project, slide presentation (optional), and team spirit (optional). Additionally, teams can earn bonus points for mined and deposited BP-1 regolith simulant in the competition attempts.

The team with the most points from all categories will win the grand prize, the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, and will receive a trophy, team certificates for each member, Kennedy Space Center launch invitations and a $5,000 team scholarship. Awards for other categories include monetary team scholarships, a school trophy or plaque, team certificates, and Kennedy Space Center launch invitations.

For more information, please contact Bryce Hill at BHill@mtech.edu.