NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge

The senior design group tests their rover on Thunder Drive. From left are Nickolaus LaFlash, Kyle Pierce, Tess Bruggeman, Joey Clark, Jorge Dahms, Tyler Hartman and Jacob Brady.

Seniors take design project to competition

By Catherine E. Porter
marketing and communication major ’16

A team of Trine University students enrolled in the Allen School of Engineering & Technology will compete against teams from around the world during the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge this month.

Trine’s team of mechanical engineering and design engineering technology majors will take their senior design project to the competition at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. from April 16 to 18. 

The team includes:

 Jacob Brady of Saline, Mich.;

Tess Bruggeman, Coldwater, Ohio;

Joey Clark, Batesville;

Jorge Dahms, San Juan, Puerto Rico;

Tyler Hartman, Fort Wayne;

Nickolaus LaFlash, Fort Wayne; and

Kyle Pierce, Lyons, Ohio.

Beginning in October, the team researched successfully-implemented NASA rovers, watched videos from past competitions and explored different automotive and bicycle components that could be fitted together to create a human-powered rover.

“Building has been a long process that has required countless hours of work for building, testing and refining,” Hartman said. According to Hartman, obstacles that the group overcame included “getting the drivetrain system to operate effectively as well as keeping the rover within the 5-by-5-by-5-foot box that NASA requires while in the fold-up position.”

Their rover is unique because of its lightweight aluminum frame and the use of custom-made, easy-to-fold hinges. The vehicle must be light enough for two people to carry it 20 feet. Team members said they hope their lightweight design and improved drivetrain and steering mechanism will help them succeed during the competition.

Teams will be scored on how quickly they can assemble their rover and make it through an obstacle course while avoiding penalties. A total of 94 teams will be participating in the competition.

The team thanks Vestil Manufacturing of Angola for donating the materials to build the rover.

The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge focuses on designing, constructing and testing technologies for mobility devices to perform in the exploration of environments such as planets, moons, asteroids and comets. It aims to provide valuable experiences that will encourage student participation in the technologies and concepts that will be needed for future exploration.

Engineering Design Expo

The NASA Rover will be among displays during Trine’s 12th annual Engineering Design Expo from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, April 24, in Fawick Hall and Jim and Joan Bock Center for Innovation and Biomedical Engineering. The expo showcases projects created by senior Trine engineering students.