Competing against dozens of renowned four-year universities, the College of DuPage Robotics Team, an offshoot of the College’s Engineering and Technology Club, earned two top awards at NASA's Robotic Mining Competition, Lunabotics, held earlier this month at the Kennedy Space Center.
The team placed third in Caterpillar Autonomy, which came with a $750 award from the Caterpillar Corporation, and earned Special Recognition in Systems Engineering. Both awards are impressive feats demonstrating a high level of difficulty, said COD Physics Professor and Robotics Team Faculty Advisor Tom Carter.
“To place in the top three at the same level as a robotics powerhouse like the University of Alabama is truly impressive. It is all the more remarkable when you consider that this year both the team and the robot were built brand new from the ground up,” he said.
The competition involved designing and building a robot to dig through a simulated lunar surface to deposit as much gravel simulant as possible in two 15-minute runs. In order to qualify, teams were required to deposit at least a kilogram of the gravel in the depiction sieve.
“The fact that COD’s robot could get to the other side of the pit and back was a pretty big accomplishment,” Carter said. “I’d guess about half to two thirds of the robots either fell into a hole or dug themselves into a hole.”
Robotics Team Captain Gabe Wozniak said he is proud of the effort his team put into the robot’s entire system and the success they achieved in their first year in the national competition.
“Because of HVACR Professor Bob Clark’s advice, the difference we pushed for this year was getting more team members involved in actively contributing to the robot’s development,” said Wozniak. “All team members went above and beyond to ensure our success in the competition, and that is not an exaggeration. I am privileged to have been able to lead such a fine group.”
In addition to Wozniak, this year’s Robotics team includes Abdullah Ali, Brenda Amador, Josef Brania, Oliver Burrus, Stavros Dellis, Zachary Egert, Anjanette Francisco, John Greager, Maxwell Harris, Faiza Khan, Nayal Merchant, Soka Suliman, Jaden Tran, Nick Vasquez, Elijah Wilkinson and Giovanni Zavalza. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 10 team members were able to attend the competition: Brania, Burrus, Dellis, Egert, Greager, Harris, Merchant, Wilkinson, Wozniak and Zavalza.
Overseeing the build of this year’s robot was COD Machining Advisor Bill Toldness.
“COD provided a state-of-the-art manufacturing lab, but it was all student-led,” he said. “The enthusiasm and tenacity amongst the students were the key. The only thing that interrupted them in their build was their final exams.”