By Zoe Crain
Copy Editor 

Team Members: Jon Buchholz, TJ Lilyblade, Clayton Walker, Justin Maza, Bruce Nelson, Emma Hutchinson, Alexandra Indritz, and Andrew Pederson 

One of the two ME Robotics capstone team’s name is Sparta Robotics, and is led by Project Manager Jonathan Buchholtz. Buchholtz’s team works on Project Gemini in conjunction with AE Astro team Coeus Promethea Genna (CPG). 

The premise of Sparta’s project is to design and construct a manipulator for the purpose of a satellite refueling mission simulation. In conjunction with CPG’s chase and target vehicles, Sparta has created a space robot. 

According to Buchholtz, the team’s greatest difficulty faced during the Detail semester is rapid prototyping. “While it’s great to iterate designs quickly, we sometimes use it as a crutch for rushed designs. If we didn’t have our own printer in the Space Robotics Lab, it would have been much more difficult to pull off all the printing we’ve done throughout the semester.” 

As of halfway through April, Sparta had just passed their software integration test. This test was the last major milestone before the team’s critical design review: but that doesn’t mean the team is done. Sparta is still working on implementing autonomous control of the manipulator, which is proving to be a much larger step than originally planned. There are also several mechanical designs being improved upon so that the structure is stronger and the kinematics are more efficient. 

The most exciting thing about the semester, according to Buchholtz, “was definitely seeing the manipulator attached and running on CPG’s satellite. The next thing I’m looking forward to is performing the refueling phases, which are the apex of the project.” 

Sparta Robotics would like to thank their professor, Dr. Iacopo Gentilini for his “never-ending dedication to us and our projects, and for his hard work in putting together the Space Robotics lab, the coolest place on campus.” They would also like to thank Dr. Julio Benavides for setting up this cooperative opportunity, and of course, “all of our CPG colleagues for their effort in putting together a very impressive project.” 

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