Meet the brain of our new rover - a Nvidia Jetson TX2 kindly donated by XENON High Performance Computing! This powerful board will increase the computing power of our systems and allow us to perform more complex calculations to process images for recognising objects in the desert. A big thankyou to the people at XENON!
The team had a fantastic time displaying our rover and robotic arm to over a thousand students and teachers from Oakleigh South, Clarinda and Huntingdale Primary Schools. The excitement on their faces says it all! Thankyou to Mark Dadswell and our eager model for the photo featured in the Monash Leader.
The team were delighted to unveil our progress on the 2019 competition Mars rover at our Design Launch. Motivated by our success and shortcomings in the previous competition, we have redesigned every aspect of the rover to accommodate for rule changes and improvements.
We are pleased to announce an entirely overhauled chassis, suspension and wheel system, a redesign of our robotic arm with a smarter electronics control scheme, a new computing system and on-board soil collection and life detection.
Thank you to everyone who came, and we can't wait to show you all our creations as they become a reality.
Nova Rover Team had the privilege of demonstrating our rover and robotic arm at the Scienceworks all-ages after-hours event Astrolight Festival. We had a wonderful time reaching out to the younger generation and witnessing their reactions to our rover coming alive in front of them. Kids were in awe of our robotic arm as it picked up objects with ease and even provided fist-bumps. The team loved inspiring our next generation of rover builders about space and helping them see first hand the amazing things they can do in STEM.
To celebrate National Science Week 2018, Nova Rover Team attended a breakfast with Australian NASA exoplanet astrophysicist Dr Jessie Christiansen. Jessie spoke to us about her incredible contributions cataloguing exoplanets found with the Kepler Space Telescope, and her upcoming work with NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
Our science team lead Daniel Ricardo participated in a panel discussion at the Royal Society of Victoria alongside Dr Rebecca Allen, Evie Kendal, Julia Mitchell and Monash's own Dr Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway. The panel discussed complex topics including the future of space travel, the importance of becoming a multi-planetary species and the implications and opportunities for exploring new worlds. The panel also spoke about how our incredible technological advancements in space exploration can be used back on Earth to benefit us all.
Finally, we were also featured in Channnel 10's kids science show Scope! Joel Kuper and Daniel Ricardo showed off our Mars rover to get younger generations excited about space, Mars and engineering in season 4, episode 64.
With the University Rover Challenge 2018 in the rearview mirror, we've been exploring new innovations for our 2019 rover. After a few weeks of research, we produced a 3D printed six wheeled rover chassis, similar to that of the NASA Mars Curiosity rover, which has been successful at traversing obstacles although at low speeds. We've also researched new options to replace our current wheels with low pressure, light weight balloon wheels. Our software team has began development of higher bandwidth radio communications allowing for more cameras, a graphical user interface, a radio monitoring program and a camera manager. Finally, our science team have begun research and development of a new soil sampling and in-situ life detection device.
As for our past rover, we are not quite done with it yet. The 2018 rover has been revived and will be utilised for educational and exhibition purposes at schools and public events such as Scienceworks Astrolight festival. We plan to demonstrate its capabilities and innovation to inspire future students to study STEM at university.
At Monash University Clayton Open Day 2018, we opened our doors to the public. The team had a fantastic day demonstrating the robotic arm, providing tours of the workshop, showing people our Mars rover and chatting about our incredible time overseas at the University Rover Challenge in Utah. We also showed off our preliminary designs for our 2019 rover and gave courageous people a chance to control our mini robot arm.
Nova Rover Team is now the first Australian Team to compete at the University Rover Challenge (URC). As a first year team, we were delighted that our work and sacrifice placed us 14th out of the 96 teams who applied. We ended up beating Ivy league universities and teams with much more experience and resources than ourselves.
It was incredibly exciting to actually arrive at the Mars Desert Research Station and have our rover drive. A Mars rover is a rather complex robotic system, which can make it quite volatile in terms of issues and debugging. Fixing a problem usually isn’t too hard, but finding the problem is a real challenge when the device has so many layers of hardware, electronics and software to peel back. We’ve learnt that the key to building robust systems is to prototype, test, assess, redesign, rinse and repeat, and that it is important to not only design for functionality but to make smart designs for convenient debugging and testing. It was this philosophy and the willingness of team members to stay up late fixing problems that allowed our rover to perform on the days. Despite several technical issues that limited our performance in the tasks, the mere fact that our rover was able to attempt all of the four tasks is a testament to the dedication and skill of the team.
Our time at the competition has given us dozens of new ideas for improving our systems and next year, in 2019, we are planning to win the competition!
Nova Rover Team went out to country Victoria again for challenging terrain and to test out our hollow bore auger. Our new motors are running at just 30% and we've had a breakthrough on our autonomous navigation. Check out the successes (and a failure) in the video.
Nova Rover Team spent the Easter break on a rural property in North-East Victoria, subjecting the rover to all kinds of conditions. We were able to practice the full rover and base station transportation and setup process, along with terrain and radio range testing. This has been immensely helpful in preparing us for the competition in June. We were also joined by Galen College's Wangaratta VEX Robotics Team, a group of talented high school students who have taken their robotics competition by storm as a first-year team. Hopefully we've inspired them to build Mars rovers a few years down the track!