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NASA Space Grant students excel at statewide robotics, research competitions

May 16, 2011

Four teams from Colorado State University's NASA Space Grant program recently showcased their design projects and won some awards in two statewide competitions - the Robotics Challenge and the Undergraduate Space Research Symposium.

A CSU robot that was entered into a Space Grant competition this springBoth events are sponsored by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.

“Our CSU Space Grant students continue to do an amazing job in terms of coming up with innovative and successfully executed space hardware projects,” said Azer Yalin, director of the CSU Space Grant program. “The creativity and drive of our student teams is something we should be very proud of, and I am pleased to see their efforts being recognized with awards at statewide competitions.”

Robotics Challenge Team

A CSU team participated in the Colorado Space Grant Consortium’s Robotics Challenge at the Great Sand Dunes in Alamosa, Colo., on April 2. The challenge consists of multiple obstacles with an increasing degree of difficulty. At the center of each course is a beacon, which robots must be able to autonomously navigate toward. The CSU robot made it through all of the standard courses, as well as succeeding on some personalized courses.

“Designing and building the robot was fun, but my favorite part had to be the day of the challenge in the Great Sand Dunes,” said Devin Dyke, a senior mechanical engineering major who is a member of the Robotics Challenge Team. “Seeing our robot successfully, but not perfectly, navigate through each of the courses was great.  Our robot ended up being one of the top performers of the day and we were very happy with the results. Hopefully by sharing our designs, we will be able to see more robots ready to tackle the courses at future events.”

The event is intended to simulate an autonomous robot mission on Mars. The terrain near the Great Sand Dunes National Park creates an environment similar to what can be found on Mars. Students on the Robotics Challenge Team combine multiple mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering skills while learning to design a project, work cooperatively, and manage their time wisely.

Members of the Robotics Challenge team were: Casey Anderson, sophomore electrical and computer engineering major; Noah Clark, freshman mechanical engineering major; Mark Lovell, senior mechanical engineering major; Anthony Navarro, senior electrical and computer engineering major; Devin Dyke, senior mechanical engineering major; and Michael Martin, junior electrical and computer engineering major.

Annual Space Grant Symposium

Three CSU teams traveled to the annual Undergraduate Space Research Symposium at the University of Colorado-Boulder on April 9. Two of the teams were winners in their presentation session.

The first team to win their presentation session was the RocketSAT project, consisting of four senior mechanical engineering majors. RocketSAT is a NASA program which gives universities and students access to a space environment. Teams are tasked with developing a payload which will be launched by NASA this summer in a Terrier Sounding Rocket. The CSU team developed technology that functions similarly to a gas gauge in a spacecraft, using a laser to measure the empty space within the fuel tank. Members of the RocketSAT team were: Abigail Wilbourn, Isaiah Franka, Jordan Rath, and Michael Yeager.

The second presentation session winner from CSU was the independent team, which consists of summer interns in the CSU Space Grant Program. The team developed their own project objectives and decided to design a landing capsule for their existing rover. Contained within the capsule the team developed, their rover could be deployed from high altitudes and land without being damaged. This technique is similar to the method NASA currently uses to deploy Mars rovers. Members of the independent team were: Luke Slominski, senior mechanical engineering major; Travis Histed, senior electrical engineering major; Ben Gindl, senior mechanical engineering major; and Sean Throckmorton, senior engineering science major.

Students gaining experience through program

“The program is great because it you allows to experience a little bit of what working on an engineering project is like, with all its deadlines, logistics and goals,” said Histed. “The team is proud of our project and we feel it demonstrated successfully a different take on the rover delivery problem.”

The third team to compete at the Symposium was the DemoSAT-B team. This team constructed a device for measuring atmospheric conditions such as solar intensity, wind speed, temperature, and pressure. Their device was attached to a weather balloon and reached an altitude of 100,000 feet. The goal of the project was to gather data that could aid in the efficient collection of alternative energies. Members of the DemoSAT-B team were: Abigail Wilbourn, senior mechanical engineering major; Michael Somers, junior mechanical engineering major; Tyler Faucett, senior mechanical engineering major; and Paul Scholz, senior mechanical engineering major.

CSU teams like this one showcased their efforts at spring NASA Space Grant competitionsThe Undergraduate Space Research Symposium is hosted each year by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium on the CU-Boulder campus. The   event provides a forum in which students from around Colorado can present their space-related work. The Symposium offers presentation sessions, networking opportunities, and cash prizes for the winning teams. The event brings together students, university faculty, and working professionals from the aerospace field across Colorado. More information about the Colorado Space Grant Consortium and the Undergraduate Space Research Symposium can be found at

About the Space Grant program

The National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program is a national network of colleges and universities working to expand opportunities for individuals to understand and participate in NASA’s aeronautics and space programs by supporting and enhancing science and engineering education, research, and outreach programs. In Colorado, the Space Grant Program includes 13 colleges and universities. The Colorado Space Grant at CSU provides opportunities for students from all levels to gain the experience and confidence they need to prepare for careers in space science and technology through papers, design and development projects, design reviews, and presentations.

Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Phone: (970) 491-2336