The CSULB Space Sharks Prepare for Year 2 of NASA Mining Robot Competition

Student teams entering a NASA competition to build a mining robot can expect technical challenges. But in addition to engineering glitches, last year’s CSULB Lunabotics team had to contend with a government shutdown, sudden venue change, and last-minute scramble for funding.

Dehwei Hsu, the mechanical engineering senior who led last year’s FortyMiners team, said the robot’s design and development was already behind schedule when the government shutdown forced NASA to cancel the scheduled competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Teams still submitted reports and a slide presentation, but instead of the onsite competition in Florida, University of Alabama hosted a Robotic Mining Challenge at its Tuscaloosa campus.

“Instead of Florida, it was Alabama,” said Hsu, who was previously the rover lead for Long Beach Rocketry. “The only problem was we were funded for Florida, but not for Alabama.”

Alabama is among 11 non-LGBTQ-friendly states where California funds can’t be used for travel. In light of that, the FortyMiners scaled back their contingent to four people. In addition to raising money for the team’s travel, they had to secure $1,200 to ship the robot there and back.

The FortyMiners came in 26th out of 46 schools in the virtual competition. Of the 27 schools competing onsite, only nine robots ran, and three autonomously.

This year, the team has a new name (the Space Sharks), a new design, and 20 new members, drawn from computer science and aerospace, electrical, and mechanical engineering. They are assigned to subteams for drivetrain, excavation, and electronics.

Providing students practical experience in the engineering lifecycle, from concept development to system closeout, Lunabotics supports NASA’s Artemis program, which aims for a 2024 moon landing and sustainable exploration by 2028 as part of the Moon to Mars mission.

On the lunar surface, NASA plans to demonstrate technologies, expand commercial opportunities for deeper space exploration, and test methods to obtain water from ice and other natural resources. The water discovered at the lunar poles will be key to humans living in space.

The teams must present their robot and design philosophy at the competition, submit a systems engineering paper explaining their methodology, perform public outreach for underserved and underrepresented K-12 students, and design, build and compete a robot to simulate an off-world mining mission.

The robot must be no more than 1 meter long and 60 kilograms in weight. The goal is for it to run autonomously for 15 minutes, navigating rough and icy terrain simulating the lunar surface. Hsu said the Space Sharks are aiming for one cycle of autonomy, and remote controlling the robot for the rest of the 15 minutes.

The competition will take place from May 18-22 at the Kennedy Space Center. Lunabotics, formerly called the NASA Robot Mining Competition, is just one of several NASA student competitions. In 2015 and 2016, CSULB competed in the NASA RASC-AL Robo-Ops Competition to design and build a Mars rover.

The Space Sharks hope to bring 20 people—about half of the team—to Florida at a cost of $12,000. Participating in the competition is an intense experience. Hsu said team members who attend the competition usually end up staying on with the team.

Even with the team scouring the Internet for rock-bottom parts prices and picking up their aluminum from the M&K Metals scrap yard, the robot will still cost $4,000 to design and build. The Associated Engineering Student Body, the College of Engineering, and team advisor, Dr. Praveen Shankar, are all contributing funds.

But if the team hopes to reach its goal to send 20 students to Florida, more fundraising will be needed.

Rani Hanna, business lead on the electrical team, said he is applying for grant proposals and looking to local companies to supply some parts.

Last year’s team learned a lot about what to do when things go wrong, which is typical during a team’s first year of participation in a particular competition. The mechanical subteam had difficulties last year with the design. The delays turned out to be caused, in part, by a defective motor driver that kept burning out the board. But that left the electrical team with only one week to wire it up, and the coding team less than a week for testing.

The defective part was identified as the culprit the third time it burned out the board, but by then it was too late to fix it, since the robot had to be shipped.

“It seemed like the deck was stacked against us,” said Hsu, adding that he didn’t want to let their advisor down. “We learned our lesson last year, and that’s that you should design the whole thing before building it.”

Another challenge was that the competition was held a week before final exams. Hsu was accompanied by Jessica Crisantes, the mechatronics lead; John Cayabyab; and Spencer Jehlik, the drivetrain lead. To get help with the coding, they Facetimed coding lead Christopher Senner and electrical lead Alexander Littleton back in Long Beach.

When they arrived at the competition, the robot wasn’t working. Eventually, they got all four wheels moving—amid cheers from fellow competitors. Hsu said the FortyMiners used every minute of their pit time. After the pit closed at 11 p.m., they went back to their hotel rooms to study for finals.

The competition schedule was changed, leaving the CSULB team with so little time to get to the airport that they missed their flight. They spent a night in the airport waiting for a standby flight home.

“This year, the rover is way more complete,” said Hsu, who is serving as systems engineer on this year’s team. “It’s fully functional. The electrical engineer is making a printed circuit board. We’ll get rid of the rat’s nest of wiring. It should be a huge improvement.”

Participating in the Space Sharks gives students an opportunity to work on a multidisciplinary team, solve problems, and apply theory.

“When you join a student organization, you learn valuable technical skills,” said business lead Rani Hanna, a freshman electrical engineering major. Where are you going to get technical skills like this if you don’t have an internship?”

Hsu agrees. “I tell the new people—last year’s team got jobs. That gets their attention.” He describes his teammates as “a group of close friends willing to work with each other for long hours.”

For more information on the Space Sharks, visit their webpage at https://beachrmc.com/. Or follow the team on Instagram at csulb.rmc.

CSULB Chapter Places Fifth in American Society of Civil Engineers Competition

team in timber category

Under the direction of Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Lisa Star and Lecturer Jeremy Redman, CSULB’s team placed fifth overall in the American Society of Civil Engineers Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC) at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo this month.

Nearly 50 students on nine teams competed to build a concrete canoe, geotechnical wall, timber house, and more. The CSULB ASCE Student Chapter, led by Co-Presidents Marionne Lapitan and Mario Martinez, was also named Outstanding Student Chapter by ASCE National. Continue reading “CSULB Chapter Places Fifth in American Society of Civil Engineers Competition”

Four Finalist Teams Face Off at 2019 Innovation Challenge Pitch Competition

A cold-brew-coffee service, a battery-recycling business, a vegan food-finder, and a diagnostic medical-device startup will present their plans to judges at the CSULB Innovation Challenge Finalist Pitch Competition and Award Ceremony on April 11.

Sips Cold Brew plans to deliver locally produced cold-brew coffee to college students at a competitive price. Students will receive weekly or biweekly deliveries of a 32-ounce growler, enough for four to six servings. Continue reading “Four Finalist Teams Face Off at 2019 Innovation Challenge Pitch Competition”

MAE Students Showcase their Fall Senior Design Engineering Projects

MAE design expo groups

CSULB Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering students showcased their Senior Design Engineering Projects at Thursday’s Exhibition in the Niggli Conference Center. The multidisciplinary projects were designed, developed, fabricated, and funded by CSULB and some local industries under the supervision of Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Mahdi  Yoozbashizadeh. Continue reading “MAE Students Showcase their Fall Senior Design Engineering Projects”

Turbine and Suspension Systems Take Top Awards at Engineering Expo

A locomotive suspension system for harsh environments was chosen as the most innovative and practical design and a turbine in-pipe system as the best design for sustainable and clean energy harvesting at the Engineering Innovation Expo Monday.

The showcase in the University Student Union included 22 Senior Design Projects from the CSULB Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department.

The pico hydroelectric turbine-in-pipe system uses excess pressure within residential-scale pipe systems to harvest electricity off-the-grid. The system consists of a reaction turbine, generator, and auxiliary electrical equipment. The electrical equipment is dependent upon the application which can include powering outdoor lights or charging small electronics. Additionally, the design of the system will keep the flow rate and pressure of the water entering the household in compliance with standards for potable water systems.

Team members include Cristina Azuara, Hope Daley, Elyssa Lawrence, and Daisy Zaragoza. Continue reading “Turbine and Suspension Systems Take Top Awards at Engineering Expo”

Creativity and Innovation on Display with MAE Senior Design Projects

Ever wish your skateboard had brakes or your bike could charge your phone? Several CSULB engineering students had those wishes too. But instead of just wishing, they turned those ideas into a reality.

On Monday, 22 groups of mechanical engineering students demonstrated their Senior Design Projects at the Engineering Innovation Expo in the University Student Union. Heavy on green and renewable energy, the projects were the results of two semesters of work—including plenty of late nights and weekends. Continue reading “Creativity and Innovation on Display with MAE Senior Design Projects”

Environmental Engineering Team Takes Top Spot at ASCE Competition

The Cal State Long Beach team clinched a first-place win in last weekend’s Environmental Competition at the annual ASCE Pacific Southwest Conference for building a water treatment system for less than $500. The three-day competition, which drew 1,300 students from 18 universities to Arizona State University, lets students put their civil or environmental engineering skills to the test.

College of Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani congratulated the students on their excellence. “As we move forward toward a more robust and standalone program in environmental engineering, student interest already places us above other universities,” he said.

“I wasn’t sure how we would do at first,” said Anesia Canty, Environmental Team Captain and president of the CSULB chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World. “Last year, UCI, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and CSU Fullerton got the top spots, so I knew we had to be at their level to place.” Continue reading “Environmental Engineering Team Takes Top Spot at ASCE Competition”

Artemus Labs’ ‘Sexy’ Prosthetic Liner Wins 2018 Innovation Challenge

Artemus Labs team

Four finalist teams faced off Thursday at the CSULB Innovation Challenge, delivering their pitches to judges and answering questions about their target customers, revenue projections, and competition. The winning team was Artemus Labs, which will receive $10,000 in cash and $40,000 in services to help market its Python prosthetic liner.

“One of the things that President Conoley and I value is innovation—especially student innovation,” said CSULB Provost Brian Jersky. “We’re the old generation and you’re the new—we’re in your good hands.”

The Artemus Labs team collected feedback from amputees and evaluated existing prosthetic liners before designing their Python liner, which is breathable and comes in bright colors and two designs. Their goal was to make amputees “feel sexy.” Continue reading “Artemus Labs’ ‘Sexy’ Prosthetic Liner Wins 2018 Innovation Challenge”

CSULB Freshman Wins Video Pitch Contest at MESA Conference

CSULB engineering freshman Zoe Smith went to last month’s MESA Conference hoping to learn about leadership and connect with future employers. She didn’t realize she’d end up winning the video-pitch challenge, which came with a $1,000 prize.

Smith was among 14 CSULB students who attended the MESA Student Leadership Conference Oct. 27-28 in downtown Los Angeles. The event connects hand-picked engineering and computer science students with industry professionals to develop the next generation of STEM leaders. Continue reading “CSULB Freshman Wins Video Pitch Contest at MESA Conference”

Student Entrepreneurs Flock to Innovation Challenge Contest

Industrial design junior Ryan Genena already knows how to develop a business plan. That was just one of the things he learned as a participant in last year’s CSULB Innovation Challenge. His team—a startup called 1010 Innovation with an app to help seniors—was one of four finalists in last year’s Challenge.

Genena was one of about 50 students who turned out Thursday to hear more about the contest, which provides $10,000 in seed funding and $40,000 in services to support the lucky winner’s startup.

The students came from many majors—everything from animation, marketing, and political science to industrial design and chemical and electrical engineering. Their interests were equally varied: artificial intelligence, footwear, sustainable design, safe driving, security, robotics, and human-centered design. Continue reading “Student Entrepreneurs Flock to Innovation Challenge Contest”