Miami Engineering team shines in NASA Lunabotics competition with their lunar mining robot

The hard work of the University of Miami American Society of Mechanical Engineers (UM ASME) paid off as their project for the NASA Lunabotics competition earned them a flawless score in project management, placing them as one of the top contenders in the prestigious event
Miami Engineering team shines in NASA Lunabotics competition with their lunar mining robot

The University of Miami's chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (UM ASME) spent the last academic year building a lunar mining robot for the NASA Lunabotics competition.

“I learned a valuable life lesson from this,” said Praveen Magesh, mechanical engineering student, current vice president and incoming president of UM ASME. “Everything that can fail will,” he joked. “But really, we’re proud of what we were able to produce. We really had to lean on each other as a team to build our prototype.”

The team displayed the culmination of their efforts–the robot itself–at the College of Engineering’s annual Senior Design Expo on May 2, 2023.

A month later on June 1, NASA announced the awards for its Lunabotics competition, which for more than 10 years has inspired undergraduate teams across the country to pursue STEM and build lunar robots, assisting NASA’s mission with the valuable data generated.

The team’s project report earned a perfect score in project management from the NASA judges.

“We split into sub teams during the Fall and tackled different roles in the research and design of the robot,” said Paige Van Hyfte, engineering student and member of UM ASME. “In the Spring, we made our blueprints reality. We used the machine shop to cut and shape the metal for our robot and connected the electrical components to bring the robot to life.”

“Manufacturing the robot was very challenging,” said Neyton Baltodano, engineering student and current president of UM ASME. “We would not have been able to build our robot without the help of College of Engineering machinist Demetrios Doumenis Jr., who provided design advice and showed us how to operate machine shop equipment, even making some highly complex parts for the team.”

The team also placed second in the Public Outreach Project Report category, earning recognition for mentoring 25 students at Sunset Miami High School as they built and coded smaller-scale lunar mining robots. This distinction earned the team $2000 from NASA to enhance their Lunabotics efforts next year.

“We found a lot of value in sharing our own STEM journey with the high school students,” Magesh said. “Across two sessions, we introduced them to robotics, coding, STEM careers, and gave them the opportunity to build their own mini lunar mining robots!”

“College of Engineering faculty have been very big supporters of our project,” Baltodano said. “Dr. Emrah Celik, as our club’s advisor, provided the team with critical technical advice and helped with recruitment efforts as well. Dr. Qingda Yang was also extremely helpful in providing the team additional funding for the robot parts we needed and for the robot kits we used in the outreach project.”

“I am so proud of our UM ASME Lunabotics team,” said Qingda Yang, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “They did an impressive job in designing, fabricating, and assembling a lunar mining robot. They earned remarkable feedback from NASA. Congratulations to Neyton Baltodano, UM ASME president, Praveen Magesh, project leader, and subteam leaders Trevor Riess, Grace Wilson, Bergen Johnson, and Colin Gerlach. Congratulations and appreciation also go to Emrah Celik, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who did a fantastic job as the faculty advisor.”

“This is great news,” Celik said. “They did an exceptional job in this prestigious competition. The team put in so much effort this year to make it happen and I’m proud of each and every one of them. Their work reaching out to local high school students to teach them robotics fundamentals made an impact toward STEM recruitment.

“Receiving a monetary award from NASA is also a great honor that few teams achieve,” Celik added.

“These students went out of their way to put together a truly excellent submission to this year’s Lunabotics competition,” said Pratim Biswas, dean of the College of Engineering. “Their exemplary collaboration and dedication serve as an inspiration to the whole Miami Engineering community. Each of them has a bright future and I’m sure the team’s work next year will shine even brighter.”