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SDSU students progress in NASA rover competition

Zechariah Bergjord works outside the AME Production Lab to rewire circuits for the actuators on the Space Trajectory excavator May 15, 2023. The aluminum-based excavator is part of the equipment the student team has built to compete in a NASA contest.
SDSU students advance in a NASA rover competition

Engineering students from SDSU will progress to the next stage of NASA’s Break the Ice Lunar Challenge.

This challenge asks teams to create rovers able to extract water crystals from the moon.

Todd Letcher is the project adviser and associate professor of mechanical engineering at SDSU. He said the next text may be similar to what his team has been practicing.

“There’s going to be light, fluffy sand, some rocks mixed in there, some large boulders that we are going to have to drive around,” he said. “Some craters that we have to navigate through or maybe navigate around. Some slopes that we have to either drive around or drive right across and have rovers that can handle those steep slopes.”

Letcher believes his team can built rovers capable of accomplishing these tasks. He also said this competition is an impressive feat for his students.

“This is what’s called a NASA centennial challenge, so these are challenges that are open to any group in the world,” he said. “So, most of the groups that enter into these things are private companies. They don’t disqualify university teams, but they aren’t necessarily advertising to university teams either.”

Despite this, the SDSU team has advanced to one of the top six groups. The first-place prize is one million dollars and the chance to have your rover tested by NASA.

Letcher said the competition will take place in June in Huntsville, Alabama.

Veda is an English and journalism major at Augustana University in Sioux Falls. She loves writing and storytelling, and she plans to pursue a career as a journalist after graduation.