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NASA Robotics Academy

As a research associate in the 2005 NASA Robotics Academy, I participated in a research project to study a hybrid suspension concept for planetary rovers. The goal in this research was to investigate the feasibility of combining a passively-articulated chassis with a sprung suspension system for use in future lunar rover designs. Since I had experience designing all terrain vehicles on the Tennessee Tech Baja SAE Team, my assignment was to research sprung suspension systems and design and build a system suitable for our small–scale prototype. This research task entailed surveying vehicle suspension literature and investigating existing planetary rover suspension designs. I was able to design and build a system for the scaled prototype, which behaved remarkably during testing and has provided a platform for continued research.

This experience was focused on defining a research question, performing a literature review, and forming a hypothesis. As such, I gained an understanding of, and experience with, the first steps of the research process. I have since participated in an extensive literature review assignment in an undergraduate thermal design class and was able to use the library skills I gained from this robotics project.

The IDEAS Model of the rover prototype (Created by me)

The actual prototype during assembly (team effort)

The final rover assembly - freshly muddied after a day of testing!