May 21, 2019

Bison Robotics mining team excels at NASA competition


A group of NDSU engineering students placed second overall and won several other honors at the 2019 NASA Robotic Mining Competition held in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, May 6-10.

Among the awards the team collected are:

• IEEE Innovation Award

• Caterpillar Autonomy Award, second place

• On-site Mining, second place

The annual competition attracted teams from 27 colleges and universities. Students are asked to design and build mining robots that can navigate challenging simulated off-world terrain. During the competition, robots excavated gravel and returned the material to a collector bin to simulate a mining mission on another planet.

“Autonomy of the robot is crucial,” said Samuel Willenbring, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. “We became the second team in the competition’s 10-year history to complete full autonomy in both competition runs.”

In addition to Willenbring, team members included:

• Noah Curfman, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering

• Jacob Huesman, a senior majoring in electrical engineering

• Joshua Huesman, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering

• Elliott Stone, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

• Sidney Stone, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering

• Daniel Willenbring, a freshman majoring in computer engineering

The team spent evenings and weekends working on their machine, using the knowledge they learned in the classroom to solve real-world problems. The students also gained important teamwork and leadership skills that will help them stand out to employers.

The team’s faculty advisers are Majura Selekwa, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Armon Myrick, laboratory technician and instructor in industrial and manufacturing engineering.

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