Adams State Robot Challenge simulates Mars terrain

(05-07-2009)

robot challenge image

Casey Diss, Dr. Matt Nehring, and Curt Colburn make adjustments to their robot.

photos by Jenna Bohnen

Lightweight, student-made robots needed to cross rough terrain and locate a set beacon to successfully complete the third annual Adams State Robot Challenge held at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument on April 4.

Adams State, Mesa State, and Colorado School of Mines participated in the event, organized by Dr. Randy Emmons, professor of physics. "The robot challenge provides very practical experience in an area with potential for growth and career opportunities." His project was funded through a grant from NASA.

Adams State freshman engineering students Amanda Gonzales, Casey Diss, and Curt Colburn worked with Dr. Matt Nehring, physics professor and chemistry, computer science and mathematics department chair. Nehring said last year their robot did not move well through the sand. This year, the team focused on two of the three objectives - traversing the harsh terrain and finding the beacon, less consideration was given to the maximum weight requirement of 1.5 kilometers.

robot challenge image

Casey Diss, Curt Colburn, Amanda Gonzales

A graduate of Alamosa High School, Diss, majoring in mathematics and pre-engineering, said programming the robots navigation was the biggest challenge. "This project improved my programming skills as well as my knowledge of particular robots." Concentrating on the robot relieved his mind from the "stress of school."

"It is a fun project," Nehring said. "We had some difficulties with obstacle avoidance, but we can work on that next year." He said building the robots is a valuable project for engineering students who need to regard all the pre-set constraints when designing the robot.

Colburn, from Mead, Colo., plays football for Adams State and is majoring in business management and engineering. He said the project demonstrated the thinking process of engineering, taking into account all the factors and planning for potential challenges. "This was a very fun project, and great working with Dr. Nehring." Colburn and Diss are looking forward to working on the robot next year.

By Linda Relyea