The mechanical engineering, robotics track, detail design team has been working on Heuristic Imaging Ground Based Environmental Explorer (HIGBEE) since the fall semester. Designed to compete in the NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge, HIGBEE must autonomously navigate an 80,000 meter squared playing field.

The samples, which can vary in size, shape, and color up to 20 centimeters cubed and one kilogram, include a hockey puck, tennis ball, pvc pipe, and non-ferrous metal objects. The first phase of the competition, held in Worcester, Mass. on June 6, consists of collecting a polyethylene rod with a hook and returning it to the starting point. The second stage has ten objects where as many are collected as possible in the two hour time limit.

The team primarily spent the fall semester designing the robot and its components to include the chassis, manipulator arm, end-effector (hand), and electrical components. Though the focus has been on hardware, the programming is an essential component of the robot’s operation and has been in progress simultaneously. HIGBEE’s individual components have been fully assembled and are being integrated to ensure the systems cooperate.

Throughout the past two semesters, and especially during the spring semester, the subsystem teams have run into various hurdles ranging from funding to design issues. To manage funding issues, the team approached several companies for donations and currently has nine sponsors who have contributed the majority of the robot’s parts. The team was also very grateful to receive E-Prize money from the university.

The focus of the group has shifted to programming and the team has been making progress on machine vision and mapping algorithms. There will be a few students from the team who will continue working on programming during the summer, though the hardware system will be completed prior to graduation.

Last year, the first year of this particular NASA Centennial Challenge, only one team passed the robot inspection phase and none of the domestic or international competitors successfully completed phase one of the competition. The HIGBEE team is optimistic that their robot will pass the inspection and hope that they will be able to compete in phase one in June.

Official Team Website:

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