For the past ten years, NASA has held the NASA Robotic Mining Competition at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This competition has challenged college students to design and build a robot to compete in a simulated mining environment. Seven of these years, Montana Tech has sent a robot and a team to compete against approximately 40 other college teams.
The Montana Tech NASA Robotic Mining Club (NRMC) is a multi-disciplinary club, where the students work together to design, and build a robot to compete at the NASA Robotic Mining competition at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The competition consists of a robot being either remotely operated, or autonomously to move, dig, and dump as much of the simulated Martian surface from one end of the arena to the other in the allotted time.
Approximately 30 students participate in the Montana Tech NRMC and 10 students make the trip in May to Florida. Students include everyone from Freshman through graduate school.
For the past two years the Montana Tech team has had a unique digging mechanism and our ability to dig and move material has improved greatly. This year we are improving from what has been learned in previous competitions by reducing the weight of the robot and striving for autonomy. With what we have learned, we believe we can perform very well in the coming competition in May.
There are two primary costs associated with the competition. The first is the building of the robot. Usually the cost of this ranges from $2000-$4000 each year. Students design the robot and materials are purchased. Custom components are created for the robot and fabricated in-house on Montana Tech campus. The other cost is the trip. For each student traveling the cost is around $1200 including airfare, housing, and local transportation. Between 4 and 12 student and faculty travel together each year bringing the cost up to $15,000 for the trip.
We are hoping to raise $5,000 to help us realize our improved design and excel at this year's competition.