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UWF students earn award from NASA at Human Exploration Rover Challenge

University of West Florida Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering students were recognized with the Ingenuity Award at the 30th NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. The Ingenuity Award, judged by NASA engineers, is given to a team that shows the most creative design and problem-solving process. The competition, which concluded on April 20, is an annual engineering design challenge that tasks student teams worldwide with designing and constructing human-powered rovers.

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“This shows how our enterprise design curriculum is making UWF mechanical engineering students successful as judged by NASA engineers,” said Dr. Maher Amer, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who was the students’ advisor. “The overall goal of the project was to design a two-person, human-powered vehicle that traverses a course designed similar to a lunar terrain.”

Team leaders Sharon Zubler and Matthew Arellano, along with team members Juliana Barchie,  Evan Uebele, Xander Ballesteros, and Maddy Geleta, traveled to the challenge in Huntsville, Alabama. Other members of the team included Eric Hagglund, Ethan Tallman, Jacob Faulkner, Sam Kammerer, Luis Estremera, Parker Brown, Mark Bulosan, Viktor Tran, Nikolas Hume, Will Steele, Grayson Reamsma, Brandon Long, Cole Bokowski, Alexis Hughes, Jason Sherwood, Josiah Wilmer, and Brandon Conk.

Beginning in the Fall 2023 semester, the students began assembling a human-powered rover and a robotic arm designed to traverse a Martian-simulated terrain and complete three tasks on the Martian terrain course. The assembly process underwent meticulous design and planning, employing advanced SolidWorks software and leveraging state-of-the-art 3D printing, welding, and machining technologies to achieve the final product. The rover had carbon fiber wheels and a belt system drive, and the robot arm was built to have six rotating joints, including a claw hand at the end of the arm. It was controlled by a Playstation 4 controller.

“Designing something from scratch is no easy task; whether it’s a lunar rover or a robotic arm, they all require knowledge based on the hard work of countless people before them,” Arellano said. “Our goal in developing this robotic arm and rover was to prove that anyone, student or otherwise, could attain the knowledge needed to create something new. We wanted to prove that learning isn’t something you just do in the classroom, it’s a lifestyle. This competition encouraged and forced us to learn new skills, practice new techniques, and communicate as professional engineers in high-stress environments.”

More than 600 students with 72 teams from around the world participated in the event. Participating teams represented 42 colleges and universities and 30 high schools from 24 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 13 other nations from around the world.

For more information on the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering, visit uwf.edu/hmcse.