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GSU students build moon robot
Engineering group designs device for lunar surface
Moon robot for web
Georgia Southern electrical engineering students built a moon robot for a special mission. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

            A group of senior Electrical Engineering Technology students from Georgia Southern University designed and built a robot that was judged among the best entries at a regional robotics competition.

            The Georgia Southern students placed 12th out of 50 teams at the “Return to the Moon Robotic Competition” held in conjunction with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) Region 3 Conference in Huntsville, Ala.

            Christopher Donaghue, Lory Gunter, Brendan McGee, Marcus Middleton and Chad Segal conceived and constructed the robot, which navigated and retrieved samples from an imaginary lunar surface.

            “This was our first year in the competition, so our team did very well,” said Fernando Rios-Gutierrez, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology at Georgia Southern. “In fact, three of our students got job interviews from two companies that were represented at the conference, and they were offered all-expense paid visits to the companies’ headquarters in California.”

            The project began as part of a senior design course taught by Rios-Gutierrez during the Fall 2007 semester. McGee served as the team leader while Donaghue (electronic design), Gunter (program design), Middleton (field design) and Segal (mechanical design) each took charge of a particular phase of the process. They were assisted by other students in the Electrical Engineering Technology program.

            Built according to strict guidelines set forth by the IEEE, the robot measured 10 inches long, 10 inches wide and 10 inches high. It was designed to navigate smooth, sandy and pebbled surfaces, and then collect lunar samples represented by two-inch cubes of different colors.

            “In the fall, the students built the testing field and the mechanical base, which included the chassis, motors and wheel suspension,” Rios-Gutierrez said. “They also designed the electronic interfaces, such as the ultrasonic and infrared sensors that detected obstacles and the moon samples.”

            As the project continued into the Spring 2008 semester, the students wrote the computer programs, made improvements to the mechanical and electronic systems, and put the robot through a series of tests.

            At the Region 3 Conference in early April, the Georgia Southern students were joined by students from colleges and universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, parts of Indiana, and Jamaica.

            “Our students benefitted from this project in many ways,” Rios-Gutierrez said. “First, they actually use the theoretical knowledge they get from the engineering program in the implementation of a real complex system.

            “In addition, they get the experience of working in a team environment and under a specific time frame and design specification. They also get the confidence of realizing that what they learn at Georgia Southern is on par with more well-known institutions.

            “Finally, the students get the opportunity to network with people from electrical engineering companies that are looking for good prospects to hire.”

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