University of Saskatchewan

September 30, 2014   

Engineering Students from the U of S to Compete in a NASA Sponsored Robotics Competition

October 19, 2005 Five engineering students from the University of Saskatchewan (Edwin Zhang, Devon Loehr, Remko van den Hurk, Clayton Ruszkowski and Jeff Nattress) are on their way to Mountain View, California to compete in a NASA sponsored robotics competition.

NASA is looking for outside innovations in an attempt to develop and build futuristic concepts such as space elevators and solar-powered satellites.

The students have a chance to win a $50,000 prize. The U of S science design team had to design a robotic climber, a Mars roverlike machine that has to be capable of lifting the heaviest weight possible to the top of a 50-metre cable in less than three minutes. It has to use wireless transmission systems to power the machine and monitor its progress.

A 10,000-watt search light, similar to the one on top of the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas, hangs from the top of a crane holding the cable and powers the device's solar cells, which in turn power an electric motor.

The team was put together in January. After making calculations and coming up with a design for its climber during the next 10 months, team members had to machine-build all of their parts, since nothing was allowed to be purchased.

There are two challenges taking place at the competition. The science design team is competing in the beam power challenge, which focuses on developing wireless technologies for exploration purposes, such as human planetary surface exploration and long-term Mars reconnaissance. The other challenge, the tether challenge, focuses on creating a lightweight yet incredibly strong material that will be stretched to see which tether is the strongest.

In the beam power challenge, the U of S team is one of seven competing, but is one of only two university teams, the other being from the University of British Columbia. The other five are private engineering teams. The team is sponsored by the U of S, Kramer Ltd. and Altemira Machine Design Inc.

A total of $100,000 will be awarded this year, with $50,000 going to the winner of each category. Next year 40 teams are expected to compete, with a grand prize of $100,000 for each category.

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