NDSU student research team shines in NASA competition

NDSU student research team shines in NASA competition


An NDSU research team has been selected as one of seven national winners in the 2021 Moon to Mars eXploration Systems and Habitation Academic Innovation Challenge.

The competition, sponsored by NASA in partnership with the National Space Grant Foundation, is for projects to assist the Artemis missions for NASA’s Moon to Mars explorations. NDSU’s “Pathfinder Project” was awarded about $34,000.

NDSU student team members include Kimberly Whaley, a senior and graduate student in mechanical engineering; John Langaas, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering; and Alex Hubbard, a senior majoring in computer engineering. They were assisted by faculty members Jessica Vold, Ali Amiri and Bora Suzen in writing the grant proposal.

The team has designed a preliminary concept for a remotely controlled solar-powered robot that can prepare flat, compacted areas on the lunar surface. The robot will have two primary functions, bulldozing and compacting, which will enable the building of structures and roads on the lunar surface. The team’s goal is to lay the foundation for future civil engineering projects on the Moon while also helping NASA create a sustained human presence on the lunar surface.

“The level of creativity and out of the box thinking at the collegiate level is astounding,” said John Guidi, deputy director for NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems division. “This challenge allows NASA to leverage novel ideas and innovations while providing university students—our future space professionals— with hands-on design, research, development and manufacturing experience.”

The research efforts will be conducted by multi-disciplinary teams of students during the 2020-2021 academic year, and the teams will be led by university faculty members and mentored by NASA technical experts.

Other winners included the University of North Texas, Denton; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York; and two teams from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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