Six senior Engineering majors at the College of Staten Island won second- and third-place honors at the 2009 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Student Design Competition, recently, in Baltimore.

Due to a conference rule that teams could consist of no more than four members, the seniors, John Barricella, Diego Agvila, Sujit Potluri, Camilo Galeano, Jay Brabthan, and Ryan Tomas, split into two teams and entered two radio-controlled robotic vehicles designed to collect rock samples on Mars. Initially, all six students built a prototype, but they had the time to build a second, more improved, version, so one team of two students entered the prototype and the other team competed with the newer model.

Regarding the reason for the competition, Barricella explains, “Given the spectacular success of Phoenix Mar’s Lander’s space exploration, NASA would like to include on its next mission a radio-controlled vehicle to retrieve small rock samples. The purpose of collecting the rocks is to discover if life ever existed on Mars. So, ASME conducted a competition based on this criterion where we needed to build a prototype of a robot that can go over obstacles and pick up the rocks and drop them off at the receiving area in a limited amount of time with a high accuracy.

According to Barricella, the competition was a day-long affair with judges evaluating the entries to ensure that they corresponded to the rules. After that, a peer review allowed competitors to examine each others’ vehicles for aspects that might disqualify them. Participants then evaluated the test track to determine if it met the competition requirements and, after a lottery to determine the order of the vehicles, the students put their robots to the test with the CSI robots taking second and third place.

Now that the competition is over and graduation is weeks away, Barricella says that he is hoping to land an engineering-related job once he graduates from CSI. Although his path is unclear at the moment, he would also like to revisit this project with the hope of designing a vehicle that can be used to retrieve samples from space.

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One of the two robots that CSI students recently entered in the 2009 ASME Student Design Competition