NASA Awards Grant to JBU Team

Siloam Springs, Ark. (October 23, 2009) — The National Space Grant Foundation recently awarded a team of John Brown University students $5,000 to be used in preparation for NASA’s first annual Lunabotics Mining Competition to be held at the Kennedy Space Center in May 2010.

“How many students can say that NASA paid them to build a robot to dig dirt on the moon?” said Dr. Rob Norwood, faculty advisor. “The Lunabotics Mining Competition provides a unique opportunity for our students.”

Team members include seniors Thomas Congdon of Siloam Springs, Chris Keathley of Little Rock, Mitch McKinnis of Yukon, Okla. and James Netherland of Baytown, Texas, along with faculty advisors Norwood and Dr. Will Holmes. They will be working over the next nine months to design a lunar regolith excavator. Because of the complex nature of the project, the team will follow a standard systems engineering approach and a multi-phase process in order to successfully design, build and test the robot.

"In building the robot, the team will utilize the design constraints of the moon," said Norwood. "For example, operations that are considered easy at normal environmental conditions are often impossible in low temperature, minimal atmosphere lunar requirements. The project will be multidisciplinary and students in the group will incorporate mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer engineering concepts."

The team will also be involved in outreach in the Siloam Springs School District using age-appropriate presentations to inspire and engage all audiences toward robotics, engineering, or lunar activities, said Norwood.

The $5,000 from NASA will be combined with $1500 of university funds to cover outreach costs, travel and the construction of the robot itself.