robotics team at NASA

Temple Robotics knew they had to dig—literally. 

After placing 27th out of 45 schools during the 2017 NASA Robotics Mining Competition (and 35th the year before), the team iterated on their competition robot and focused attention to the auger system.

The strategic decision paid off after a NASA rule change awarded more points to robots able to reach bottom soil, an advantage for Temple. This year, the team traveled to Kennedy Space Center and made the best of the rule change, placing 15th.

“We’ve been developing an auger for three years now, while other teams have been focusing on other systems,” Darshan Patel, the team’s VP, said. “Most teams are optimizing top soil systems, while an auger is meant to dig lower.”

To advance, the team needed to place in the top 10. Though they missed qualifying by collecting at least 1 KG of material, the upward trajectory was a win.

“Next year, we need to get it to go faster. But, it’s a working robot. Only five of the 45 teams were able to dig. We were one of them,” Patel added.

Moving forward, they will likely focus less on structural changes to the robot and more on iterating its current design to continue climbing the standings.

Should that upward trajectory continue into next year’s competition, it will coincide with both the 10th anniversary of the competition, and the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. And should Temple place in the top 10, NASA announced a second competition for those teams in Florida to compete again for the top prize during Buzz Aldrin’s space coast party. Yes, that Buzz Aldrin.

“That would be nice,” Patel added, before tempering excitement a bit.

“If we can get to 10th place, that’s more than enough for us.”