A team of students from the Univeristy of Iowa Robotics Club competed in the 2015 NASA Robotic Mining Competition May 18-22 at

theKennedy Space Center in Florida. Only a year old, the club competed for the first time in the national event.

"The Robotics Club has grown so rapidly and has done so well in the last two semesters, we're proud of all our hardworking members who stayed late into the night on multiple occasions to make this competition a reality," club president and team member Abram Nothnagle. "We had a fantastic time at the competition in the Kennedy Space Center, and made a lot of connections and got a lot of ideas for next year. We're hoping to take home some victories next year, and are always looking for new members regardless of experience level."

University of Iowa club members participating included John Steger, Zakary Keesee, Emma Hawk, Abram Nothnagle, Doron Tsachor, Runcheng Huang, Carli Brucker, and Zachary Swanson.

Additional members of the club are Anthony Zhang, Joseph Mueller, Junghum Yon, Michael Kolpak, Pavlo Nikolaidis, Richard Pryor, and Stephanie Smith.

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. 

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 purpose of the University of Iowa Robotics Club is to further student education and provide a medium through which students and community members can develop their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The aim of the club is to compete in various robotics competitions, and to give back to the robotics community through mentoring and volunteering with FIRST teams and/or other STEM-based programs, including non-profits.

For more information about the UI Robotics Club, go to https://orgsync.com/88957/chapter.