NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, under a grant from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, is running a public challenge to develop an obstacle avoidance sensor for a possible future Venus rover. The “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover” challenge is seeking the public’s designs for a sensor that could be incorporated into the design concept.
In 2018, we met Hedgehog at the Philadelphia Maker Faire – a hopping robot designed to explore extreme environments. This project was funded by our friends at NASA Innovative Advance Concepts and they’re once again joining with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory – this time to explore Venus! Jonathan Sauder from JPL announced their latest challenge to detect obstacles on the clockwork robot they’re building to explore Venus.
Jonathan sent over this brief:
With its sulfuric acid clouds, temperatures over 450°C, and 92 times the surface pressure of Earth, Venus is one of the most hostile planetary environments in the solar system. Prior missions have only survived hours! But an automaton (or clockwork mechanical robot) could solve this problem. By utilizing high-temperature alloys, the clockwork rover would survive for months, allowing it to collect and return valuable long-term science data from the surface of Venus.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we are turning this innovative concept into reality under a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) funded study. We’ve been working hard on this project, but we could use YOUR help to address some of our toughest mechanical design challenges! The Mechanical Maker Challenges are a series of challenges seeking to engage YOUR creativity to invent mechanical ways of performing traditionally electrical tasks. Top prize, a trip to NASA JPL to talk about your winning design with spacecraft engineers!
Our Second Challenge: The Mechanical Obstacle Detector
Current rovers sense obstacles and navigate around them utilizing image recognition software. Unfortunately, image recognition requires a lot of processing power, which is something that doesn’t exist for Venus because of its high temperatures (no way to keep advanced electronics cool). Further, Venus has night which is 60 Earth days long. We need to system that will detect obstacles during the night, without complex electronics, and provide a mechanical output to our rover to let it know it needs to change directions. When an obstacle is detected, the rover will reverse directions, turn, and then try again in a new direction.
Webinar. March 19, 2020. Sign up here.
Submission deadline May 29, 2020 @ 5pm ET
Judging June 1 to July 2, 2020
Winners Announced July 6, 2020
The Challenge offers up to $30,000 USD in prize money.
In addition to the above cash prizes, competitors may also be considered for the following non-monetary awards:
Announcement: NASA Wants Your Help Designing a Venus Rover Concept
Challenge details here: https://www.herox.com/VenusRover
Tweet for re-tweeting: https://twitter.com/NASAJPL/status/1230965548671889408
Facebook post for like & share: https://www.facebook.com/NASA/posts/10157939786946772:0
In addition, meet the man in person – Jonathan will be speaking on May 7th for our next Makers’ Meetup! Stay tuned for more details.