NASA Robotic Mining Competition

Mike Conroy – Florida Space Institute, University of Central Florida

NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition (RMC) challenges university teams to create robots able to excavate for critical resources in extreme environments. The event is streamed live as teams compete to harvest the target materials from below the surface simulant. In addition to excavation systems, teams must create a mobility system as well. This mobility system provides a wealth of information on surface mobility systems, drive methods and dynamics in a difficult soil (BP-1 Regolith). The RMC has exposed NASA to over 400 of these concepts to a relevant environment that reveals strengths, weaknesses and capabilities. This is an opportunity very difficult to reproduce with available data limited to observations, available arena cameras and student videos.

In 2018 the Florida Space Institute (FSI) and the Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) teamed to provide a HD video capture capability in the competition bin intended to provide high quality video for use across NASA, the research community and the teams. Almost a Terabyte of video was captured during the 2018 event. In June 2019, Schermer and Woodward created the FSI/FSGC YouTube Channel to support competitions, interviews, and informational videos across the FSI/FSGC domain, adding a playlist with the 2018 RMC videos and a comment section where students can provide additional information and discuss details regarding their designs. The result is a public resource available to future teams as well as anyone interested in regolith surface physics and traction research.