Odisha students’ moonshot rover wins third prize in NASA’s HERC challenge

Each year, NASA (HERC) throws down an engineering design challenge to engage students across the globe to push space exploration.

Ten students from Odisha secured the third position in the high school division of NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge (HERC) 2021. The posse became India’s 1st U-19 interdisciplinary team to be selected for NASA HERC 2021. The students–aged between 14 to 19–were selected to make a rover named NaPSAT 1.0.NASA’s HERC aligns with the Artemis mission to explore the Moon by 2024, and the rover made by the students could be part of the mission.Two US student teams won first and second places in the challenge.

The India students are from Young Tinker and Navonmesh Prasar foundation with Anil Pradhan and Vaishali Sharma as their mission directors. 

The team  behind NaPST 1.0 included

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1.Rishikesh Amit Nayak (student lead)

2.Anjishnu Pattanayak(management )

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3. Shreyansh Vikas Mishra( Ergonomics)

4. Kanuri Varshini( presenter)

5. Nitesh Patnaik ( designer)

6. Kailash Chandra Barik (maker)

7. Danda Pani Patra (welder)

8. Rina Bagha (welder)

9. Tanvi Mallick ( media)

10. Ankan Mondal ( brakes and suspension)

From Cycle mechanic to product developer

Kailash Chandra Barik  worked as a cycle mechanic in his father’s shop in his spare time. He is an ITI student at the Skill Development Institute in Bhubaneswar. “I was encouraged to apply for Young Tinker Academy and was selected with a scholarship. Later, with the help of STEM education and training, I became part of the NASA HERC 2021. We were supposed to go to NASA with our rover, but we were unable to visit due to the pandemic and were announced winners online. So, now I work as a product developer at Young Tinker,” he said.

What is NASA’s HERC?

Each year, NASA (HERC) throws down an engineering design challenge to engage students across the globe to push space exploration. HERC challenges high school and college students to build a vehicle designed to traverse the simulated surface of another world.

NASA is planning to send the first woman to the Moon in 2024. Like Artemis, NASA’s HERC will send an astronauts’ team to discover unknown terrains of the Moon. In addition, lunar science on the surface of the Moon will be executed by 2024 with polar and nonpolar landers and rovers to explore areas not investigated by the Apollo mission.

Innovations abound

The competition emphasises designing, constructing and testing technologies, including tools, mobility devices and traversing in unique environments. The Artemis program will prepare the students for the Moon.

The rover built by the Indian team can navigate different terrains. “The rover is working perfectly as the team’s various innovations helped in building the rover,” the team said.

The team used a three gears system instead of the usual two gears in their crank arm system. The team hit upon this idea while researching the previous rovers of the competition and found chain slacking was a common problem. To solve this, they developed an innovative three gear system.

For the steering system, the team used a triangular plate for proper force distribution instead of the usual bars used in the bar-linkage system. These stand out innovations had helped the Indian team to finish third in NASA’s global challenge.

The Indian students also won an award in the video category for their presentation of the rover-making video.

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