Purdue Lunabotics student organization places second in NASA robotics competition

August 27, 2015  

Lunabotics team

Purdue Lunabotics members, from left, Shashank Sarbada, Andrew Bowling, Dustin Soliday and John Riccione clean the regolith from the robot after leaving the mining area. Purdue Lunabotics placed second in the on-site mining category at the 2015 NASA Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center. (Photo contributed)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue Lunabotics, a student organization focused on the advancement of robotics for space exploration, recently placed second in the on-site mining category at the 2015 NASA Robotic Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The competition challenges university student teams to find solutions to real-life issues faced by NASA when developing robots to operate in harsh extraterrestrial environments. A team from the University of Alabama won the on-site mining category and a University of Utah team placed third.

"We spend the majority of our time during the school year preparing for this competition, and as part of that we create a functioning prototype robot that could be used in space exploration," said Bobby Rolley, president of Purdue Lunabotics and senior in the School of Mechanical Engineering.

Rolley said the skills gained from involvement in Purdue Lunabotics will transfer to any field.

"Classes can teach you a lot, but they can't teach you all of the skills needed for a very team-based engineering setting," he said. "Purdue Lunabotics helps you apply the knowledge that you have learned and face issues that you don't find in class."

Rolley said the organization is seeking to expand through recruitment of Purdue students in all academic disciplines this fall.

Branden Elkins, a senior in the School of Mechanical Engineering and director of business operations of the organization, said that in addition to the technical skills gained from Purdue Lunabotics, the organization stresses the importance of community involvement through outreach events and finding a perfect fit for each of its team members.

"One of our goals is to create opportunities for our members, connecting them with companies and getting them involved in student organizations, the community and professors to broaden their experience," he said. "When students join our group we evaluate their strengths, interests and experience so they can get the most out of the organization, gain new skills and, most importantly, have fun."

Currently, there are more than 30 members in Purdue Lunabotics, whose primary workspace is located at the Anvil, a student and community co-working space and business incubator located at 320 North St.       

Purdue Lunabotics' fall callout will take place in the mechanical engineering building, Room 1130, from 6 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 3. More information about the organization is available at www.purdue.edu/Lunabotics and facebook.com/purduelunabotics, or email purduelunaboticsteam@gmail.com.

About the Anvil

The Anvil is a co-working space at Purdue University that serves the unique needs of passionate students, acting as a center of creative culture in West Lafayette. The Anvil focuses on providing local and student run startups affordable office space. The Anvil is supported by the Purdue Research Foundation and the City of West Lafayette, Indiana.                    

Writer: Jared Andrews

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Steve Martin, 765-588-3342, sgmartin@prf.org

Sources: Bobby Rolley, 267-885-9067, rrolley@purdue.edu

Branden Elkins, 407-421-6094, elkinsb@purdue.edu 

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