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NASA Mars Ice Challenge: PARSEC

NASA Mars Ice Challenge: PARSEC

Additional Information:

After a semester of diligent research and design, Northeastern University’s Mars Ice Team was selected by NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace as one of 12 semi-finalists for the NASA Moon to Mars Ice and Prospecting challenge in 2021. The goal of this competition is to design, prototype, and build a robot to melt and extract subterranean ice from a simulated Martian surface.

Our robot, called PARSEC (Percussive And Rotary Surveying & Extracting Carousel), is the combination of previous Northeastern Mars Ice Team designs with the new innovations and major design improvements from this year’s dedicated team. I have played a key role on the mechanical sub-team this year utilizing my knowledge of mechanics of materials and dynamics while considering the competition constraints to effectively design and prototype several integral mechanisms of the robot making use of Fusion 360 and 3D printed parts.

Within the mechanical sub-team, I contributed to just about every system on the robot. The most significant change to this year’s robot is on its frame: instead of operating on a linear rail to drill and melt ice, we opted for a rotating carousel to maximize the area that can be used to prospect water. I spent a large amount of time designing the rotating mechanism, putting careful consideration into the various stresses the robot will experience. I also designed the system to lock the robot in place while each of the tools operated.

In addition to my work on the robot’s overall motion with the frame, I designed many of the components as part of the melting, digital coring, and drilling tools. I designed the rotation and articulation methods for the melting and digital coring tools as shown in the image below. Making use of my knowledge of rigid body motion, the new robot’s design will increase the prospected water by 60% from the previous year’s design. I also helped integrate a filtration system into the melting system so that this harvested water will be potable; this is not a competition constraint, but a bonus to our device.

On top of these main components that required a lot of engineering foresight to design, I also aided in the integration of several telemetry systems such as hall effect sensors, thermistors, and load cells into existing components to enable the robot to be operated autonomously.

With help from a $5000 stipend from NASA, we have continued to develop and construct our robot. I am excited to see what our team of incredible engineers has in store for the remainder of the spring 2021 semester and am hopeful and confident that we will move on to become finalists this March.

Here is the link to the official announcement of Northeastern's acceptance into the competition:

NASA Mars Ice Challenge: PARSEC
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