Trial By Digging: Kent State University Competes at NASA Robotic Event

We last saw Kent State University’s robotics team back in April of 2015 during an early test run of their robot, just weeks before traveling to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for NASA’s Sixth Annual Robotic Mining Competition.

NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition is for undergraduate and graduate student teams to design and build a telerobotic or autonomous excavator, or a mining robot. The mining robot must be able to mine and deposit a minimum of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of simulant in 10 minutes. The scoring for the Mining Category requires teams to consider a number of design and operation factors such as dust tolerance and projection, communications, vehicle mass, energy/power required, and autonomy.

To test their robot, Kent State’s team built a 2-ton feldspar pit to mimic the grainy and sand-like minerals similar to the surface of Mars. Kent State Robotics team was able to design and build their robot, experimenting with it on their makeshift course. Beyond using our profile and components, Rockwell Automation donated Control Logix hardware with RSLogix5000 software. With all the parts in place it only took a few months of testing and tweaking, they fine-tuned their robot for the competition in May.

Watch Kent State's Robot compete in Florida



All the hard work to compete was even more valuable because it presented all the challenges of being an engineer in the workforce. “Even after 18-hour days, our to-do lists branched off exponentially,” says senior Dan Kish, an industrial technology major. “Projects like this really prepare you for working with people, meeting hard deadlines, problem solving, situation awareness and logistics.”

Kent State’s Robotic team traveled to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to compete in May. They competed against 49 universities from around the world, including three other universities from Ohio: University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University, and Wright State.


Kent State University received 7th place in the mining portion. The University of Akron placed 2nd overall, while CWRU won the Regolith Mechanics Innovation Award for their wheel design.

For more information on Kent State University's Robotics Team follow them on Facebook or Twitter. The top photo by Melissa Olson.