As a freshman I joined the University of Connecticut’s inaugural team for the 2022 NASA BIG Idea Challenge. It started with 15 students and at its peak, grew to 23 students. It was an entirely undergraduate-run team, headed by Theresa Nosel. We submitted a proposal to NASA and were awarded $150,000 to pursue lunar robotics research. We were the first team in the state of Connecticut to apply for, and win, funding.
I led the product design team (Phase 0) and programming team (Phase 1-2) for our project. Our proposal built off many of my contributions. I came up with the hybrid tank-to-leg design after brainstorming solutions with the product design team. I also designed and rendered our proof of concept design in Fusion 360 with Hritish Bhargava.
After funding, I was in charge of making a components list and procuring them all. The parts were for our rover as well as establishing a labspace with the necessary tools. The master “spreadsheet of doom” had over 100 components. The process took almost over a month of around the clock work from nine people.
Over the summer I was one of a few members who worked and was paid full-time to carry out our research. A lot of hardware troubleshooting and debugging was done. I also learned a bunch about systems engineering. I read sections of Space Mission Design and Analysis (SMAD). Project management was something we became pretty familiar with. The Scrum board may have become my baby.
I developed an open-source CAN communication library for the ODrive motor controller. I will be honest, it was slightly over-engineered so I could vastly simplify the library in the future. I learned about how file descriptors actually work only after the project was over.
I presented at the 2022 ASCE Earth and Space conference. This was a three day conference where our team organized current and previous challenge winners to show off their projects and what they learned. This was a fantastic networking opportunity. Our team built relationships with a few of the past teams and we gained a lot of practical advice. We also heard some fascinating talks from the other panels.
To conclude the project, the team had a week long symposium in Pasadena, CA where we presented our final materials. Some of the other teams projects were insanely impressive.
2022 NASA BIG Idea Challenge
Inducted March 25, 2022
A hybrid quadruped/tank rover for extreme lunar terrain. Finalists at the 2022 NASA Big Idea Challenge