The University of Alabama

UA Lunabotics Team to Defend Title

Lunabots 2013 a

Alabama Lunabotics team members Michael Carswell, left, and Caleb Leslie work on the lunabot in space provided for engineering student projects.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After winning first place in last year’s NASA Lunabotics Mining Competition, a team of students called Alabama Lunabotics from The University of Alabama and Shelton State Community College will return to the competition May 20 at Kennedy Space Center.

The team had to design a robot capable of navigating through and excavating 10 kilograms of simulated lunar soil.

The team will be judged on an oral presentation; a written systems engineering paper; project outreach in promoting science, technology, engineering and math disciplines; team spirit; and the mining category. Within the mining category, the robot is judged on its overall weight, the amount of lunar-like soil collected within 10 minutes and the bandwidth required in communicating with the lunabot.

Dr. Kenneth Ricks, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UA, and Renea Randle, mathematics instructor at Shelton State Community College, serve as advisers for the team. Ricks said the students hope to earn bonus points by making the robot autonomous.

“Autonomous operation is very difficult and will add significant complexity to the robot,” Ricks said.  “Success is based upon proper preparation. The team must prepare for all aspects of the competition and have a plan to address any problems that may arise.”

The UA team’s design functions like a front-end loader, but it is modified to have better balance for autonomous operation and to carry more material. The front-end loader design offers several advantages including: ease of operation and fabrication, reduced weight, and it generates less dust during operation.

“Our advantages last year were that we were light, reliable and robust,” said Justin Headley, lead systems engineer for the team. “That’s what’s going to give us an advantage this year because we are building off the same system.”

2013 Team members include:

  • Sam David Bellestri, an electrical engineering student from Clarkston, Mich.
  • Taylor Boyle, an electrical engineering student from Hoover
  • Michael Keith Carswell III, an electrical engineering student from Geneva
  • Andrew Faulkner, a computer engineering student from Ralph
  • John Bryant Grace, an electrical engineering student from Huntsville
  • Samuel James Griffin, an electrical engineering student with computer engineering option from Hoover
  • Justin Headley, a electrical engineering student with computer engineering option from Cropwell
  • Cayla Louise Hummel, an aerospace engineering student at Shelton State from Greensboro
  • Michael C. Ikegami, an electrical engineering student with computer engineering option from Winter Park, Fla.
  • Katie E. Jennings, a chemical engineering student from Demopolis
  • Richard Connor Lawson, electrical engineering student from Purvis, Miss.
  • Caleb T. Leslie, a mathematics and electrical engineering student with computer engineering option from Enterprise
  • Tagarius L. Richardson, a mechanical engineering student at Shelton State from Tuscaloosa
  • David C Sandel, an electrical engineering student with computer engineering option from Dothan
  • Peter David Schmidt, a mechanical engineering student from Boaz, Ky.
  • Kellen Christian Schroeter, an aerospace engineering student from Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Joshua Andrew Sharpe, an electrical engineering student with computer engineering option from Odenville
  • Mitchell Gregory Spryn, an electrical engineering and physics student from Tuscaloosa
  • Jake Webster, a mechanical engineering student from Gardendale

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s fully accredited College of Engineering has more than 3,900 students and more than 110 faculty. In the last eight years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Mitchell, Portz and Truman scholars.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.