Travel Fund 'UKSEDS Lunar Rover Competition'
3rd year computer science student James O'Donnell was awarded £100 from the Informatics Travel Fund to go to Oxford to take part in the UKSEDS Lunar Rover Competition.
The team have shared their experience and advice for anyone entering the competition.
What is the Lunar Rover Competition?
The UKSEDS Lunar Rover Competition competition challenges teams across the UK to design and build a ‘Lunar Rover’. Our robot had to compete in different challenges: collecting samples on a Mars-like environment and withstanding launch vibration - all at a real aerospace testing facility (RALSpace). No launching to the Moon, sadly.
Tell us about your experience?
We learned skills from all disciplines: software, manufacturing, motors, CAD, 3d-printing, networking, team managing… but most importantly, how to solve real-life challenges from Engineering to Communications to Electronics. Should I use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi? Radio Control or WiFi? How do we receive the camera stream? None of these were in lectures!
It was hard, and it took lots of research, but we felt really proud watching the final thing come together. We got skills and experiences we would have never had otherwise.
The best part was meeting the other teams and comparing our approaches to the challenges. The competitive spirit couldn’t be healthier. Every team innovates and comes up with a new strategy every year, so everyone is open to sharing the secrets of their designs! Another highlight was meeting experts working at the cutting edge of Space industry on the Competition Day. We didn’t bring the 1st place trophy home, but we did well for our first year in the competition, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished.
Getting to the competition was an experience of its own. Travelling makes you more independent, and resilient. It is an extra layer of difficulty and mishaps that determines who is willing to go the extra mile. Being able to attend events far away opens many doors, and we thank the School of Informatics for their financial support.
Advice to future participants?
Our team leader’s advice for new participants: Start the manufacture and testing phases early! You have no idea how many things can go wrong! If you don’t plan carefully, delivery times can have you pulling your hair out over deadlines! In addition, divide your team according to the sub-projects (power and motors, mechanical design…) and nominate someone responsible for each sub-team – checking on all your member’s progress yourself is a nightmare! Finally, innovate! All teams so far have used wheels, but if you use tracks, legs, or hell, make a BB-8 robot, not only could it be better at climbing hills, but you will instantly win the prize for innovative design!