York Students Shoot For the Moon in NASA Robotics Competition

Photo from NASA Robotic Mining Competition Youtube channel
(Photo from NASA Robotic Mining Competition Youtube channel)

York College this year won a $25,000 grant from NASA to compete in the 2015 Robotic Mining Competition, where a team of five to seven students will compete at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Universities from around the country will meet on May 18, 2015 for three days of competition.

“[The competition] is like David versus Goliath,” said Dan Phelps, who teaches in York’s Communications Technologies program, and head faculty advisor of the team.

According to NASA’s website, the team with the most points from all categories will win the grand prize, the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence and a $5,000 team scholarship. Awards for other categories include monetary team scholarships, a school trophy or plaque, and team certificates.

The robots, built by each team must be lightweight, remotely operated, dig and transport a sand mixture called Black Point-1 within 10 minutes, according to the competition rules.

Besides the construction of an efficient robot, each team is graded on four other categories.

Each team must submit a paper by April 13 outlining the methods they plan to use to design and build a mining robot. Each team must participate in an educational outreach project in their local community. An optional slide presentation and 20-minute demonstration can be shown for added points. Teams will also be judged on team spirit, according to NASA’s Sixth Annual Robotic Mining Competition Rules & Rubrics 2015.

“We are not an engineering school, but that should not keep us from doing well in this competition,” said Phelp, adding that his team has passion, and determination.

Only a few colleges get funding from NASA, but Phelps is still looking for sponsors.

After travelling fees, hotel costs, and administrative fees, the team is only left with about $15,000 to build a prize-winning robot, said Phelps.

The team’s first meeting was Nov. 21. All participating students will receive course credit.

“The fact that we’re participating is a big deal,” Phelps said.

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