2013-14 List of Competitors

Below is the list of teams registered for the 2013-14 Sample Return Robot Challenge. If you belong to a media outlet and would like to connect with a local team to share their story, please contact Eileen Brangan Mell (ebmell@wpi.edu), WPI Director of Public Relations.

In alphabetical order by team name (as of 5/15/2014)

Active Competitors:

  • Team AERO* – Worcester, MA
    • Team Leader: Velin Dimitrov
    • Team Members: 3
    • What would your team do with the prize money? Unfortunately since we are WPI students, we are not eligible for the prize money.
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? We participated in the challenge last year and really enjoyed competing. We are all from the Robotics Engineering program at WPI, and we want to improve our robot and do better this year.
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? We became interested in robotics since it is the combination of principles from three different disciplines: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science. We were interested in a combination of all these topics and thus chose to purse an education in robotics.
  • Team Cephal – Pennsylvania
    • Team Leader: Pras Velagapudi
    • Team Members: 3
    • Explanation of the team name (special meanings, how it was chosen, etc) Cephal – definition – Latin, from Greek kephal-, kephalo-, from kephalē: : head, e.g. We originally picked the team name for the DARPA Robotics Challenge, where we qualified and competed in the Virtual Robotics Challenge
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? We were all colleagues at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute. Pyry and Pras were both in the PhD program and Mike worked as a systems engineer, and we collaborated on several projects together in the past. We have a shared love of robotics, and a great deal of experience building robotics together.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? We hope to have some fun and hone our skills. In addition, we are using our robot as a platform to test some actuators and cameras we would like to use in other projects.
  • Fetch – Alexandria, VA
    • Team Leader: James Leopore
    • Team Members: 1
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? The challenge entry is the first robot I’ve worked on.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? One of those giant novelty checks.
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? I’ve participated in other engineering and software challenges before, and the set of skills needed and the prize money offered made it worthwhile to compete.
  • Formicarum – Worcester, MA
    • Team Leader: Marcus Menghini
    • Team Members: 3
    • Explanation of the team name (special meanings, how it was chosen, etc) Formicarum: Latin, means “Swarm of Ants”. A democratic process with all team members as a result of a brainstorm session involving Google Translate.
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? We met at our local hackerspace (Technocopia) and discovered a common interest in space and robotics. Through discussions about this challenge, it was decided to forge a team to make an attempt at completion.
    • What would your team do with the prize money if you won? Invest in Technocopia as well as various personal robotics projects.
  • Intrepid Systems – Lynnwood, WA
    • Team Leader: Mark Curry
    • Team Members: 2
    • What are the biggest obstacles your team has overcome to be successful in this challenge or in the field of robotics in general? For us the biggest challenges are sufficient time given our ‘day jobs’ and the other big challenge is the weather. We live in the Northwest where its fairly drizzly and cold for long stretches of the year. Finding suitable testing areas has been an issue.
    • What would your team do with the prize money if you won? We would take a vacation and after that we probably be thinking of building more robots.
    • What are some fun facts about the team and its members (interesting
      biographies, funny stories, etc)?
      We have a saying… “No matter how big the robot playing field is, if there is one tree on that field, the robot will head right for it”.
  • Kuukulgur* – Estonia
    • Team Leader: Ahti Heinla
    • Team Members: 8
    • What would your team do with the prize money? We’re a non-US team, so would not get the monetary prize anyway.
    • What are some fun facts about your team and it’s members? Ivo, Tiit, and Märt are a family of mechanical engineers – a father and two sons. Ahti was a founding engineer of Skype.
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? Ronald’s university studies concentrated on robotics. He won the last two Robotex competitions in Estonia. Ahti and Maris competed at Robotex too. Lauri had been building an autonomous UAV. Mostly it is just an incredibly cool field of technology to work on.
  • Lunambotics* – Mexico
    • Team Leader: Jorge Isaac Cordero Enriquez
    • Team Members: 8
    • Explanation of the team name (special meanings, how it was chosen, etc) Last year, when we decided to compete at Lunabotics Mining Competition 2013, we wanted to mix the words UNAM (our Alma Mater) and Lunabotics, that is how the Lunambotics name was born. In UNAM, the team became really popular, and everyone began to identify us as Lunambotics, so we decided to keep the name.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? We are all thirsty of knowledge, we want to push our limits further. We would like to test our capabilities in a specific field that we all love: robotics.
    • What would your team do with the prize money if you won? We would encourage the development of technology in our country.
  • Middleman – Dunedin, FL
    • Team Leader: Jerry Waechter
    • Team Members: 2
    • What would your team do with the prize money? Provide research funding for robotics systems development for our new company.
    • What are some fun facts about your team and it’s members? I entered this competition in 2013, thinking that we would have a winning robot. As soon as I uncrated our robot, I learned that this is a hard challenge. The lighting was much different from my test area, and caused false imaging. I am not as confident this year. However, I have learned some of the skills needed to complete the challenge.
    • Explanation of the team name: I spent many years in electrical communications design. Smaller components cause product design to be much more system oriented. I want to build robotic systems. Thus, I need to transition into this technology. I find myself in the middle of this transition. I am “in the middle of a complicated plan”.
  • Mountaineers (West Virginia University) – Morgantown, WV
    • Team Leader: Yu Gu
    • Team Members: 11
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? It started from Yu Gu’s wish to build a challenge team. He called Dr. Majid Jaridi, director of the NASA WV Space Grant Consortium, and received his strong support. Together with Dr. Powsiri Klinkhachorn and Dr. Marvin Cheng, they jointly proposed the idea to the Dean and the department Chairs. From them, they have received generous funding supports and the green light to start the project as a course in both the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The course is named “Planetary Rover Design”, with numbers “MAE 493J, MAE 593K, CpE 493N, CpE 591F”, which is offered to both undergraduate and graduate students.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? The Challenge will be a great research and educational experience for us. During the process we will develop technology for robot navigation within unknown environments. The hands-on experience will also be extremely valuable for engineering students to prepare for their future study and career.
    • What would your team do with the prize money if you won? If we win, the prize money will be donated to West Virginia University (WVU). It will be used to create a scholarship that promotes robotics education and research at WVU.
  • Oregon State University Mars Rover Team – Corvallis, OR
    • Team Leader: William Edwards
    • Team Members: 40+
    • Explanation of the team name (special meanings, how it was chosen, etc) The team started out with the initiative to design robots that imitated the NASA Mars Rovers because of their popularity among the mainstream public. Thus, the OSU Mars Rover Team was born.
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? Many of us grew up in the FIRST robotics programs, while others were drawn to the large robotics presence in the OSU engineering programs.
    • What would your team do with the prize money if you won? Get better facilities and tools for our students because the current lack of space and things makes it very difficult for our various robotics teams to be productive and motivated. We could also create and support several more robotics teams with the money, thereby increasing our influence and popularity at OSU.
  • The Retrievers – New York
    • Team Leader: Robert Svec
    • Team Members: 11
    • What would your team do with the prize money? Fund future robotics programs for our school district and the entire local area.
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? Robert read about the challenge and wanted the local high school students to team up to help NASA and win this challenge.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? Experience with robotic design, assembly and software fusion in a team environment. We are excited that the challenge goal is to help NASA.
  • RPI Rock Raiders – New York
    • Team Leader: Brayden Hollis
    • Team Members: 9
    • Explanation of the team name (special meanings, how it was chosen, etc) We noticed there were a lot of r’s related to this challenge (robot, return, RPI, etc) and thought it would be fun to have a name that could be simplified to a bunch of R’s. We changed it slightly so that our name now can be simplified to the equation of the volume of a cylinder where the height and radius are the same. We also came up with Rock Raiders as this challenge simulates taking rocks from a big rock (the moon or Mars). Lastly, everyone on the team currently is related to RPI.
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? I found out about the challenge on intern.nasa.gov and brought it to my lab to see if they were interested in competing. Everyone is part of my lab except one person who graduated from the lab and is still in contact with it.
    • What would your team do with the prize money if you won? This is not completely known, but it will definitely go to continuing the field of robotics.
  • Stellar Automation Systems – Georgia
    • Team Leader: Robin Skosoris
    • Team Members: 4
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? The team consists of my wife, son and daughter-in-law. We are all technology professionals who enjoy it as a hobby, as well. My son told me about the challenge and we decided it is something we would enjoy and could succeed at.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? Experience, credibility and recognition. Our long term goal is to start a robotics based business. We hope to learn more about the industry and opportunities available as well as meet like minded people to build our network. Plus the opportunity to earn some start-up money and have some fun.
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? I have worked with factory automation and robotics for over 20 years. My son has a degree in Mechatronics and has been interested in robots for most of his life. His senior project was a ballbot (a tower robot balancing on a basketball)
  • Sourcerors – Pennsylvania
    • Team Leader: Ryan Cahoon
    • Team Members: 3
    • What would your team do with the prize money? Recoup expenses of the robot, put it towards farther research and development of the sample return robot, participate in other robotics competitions, and/or pay off college loans.
    • What are some fun facts about your team and it’s members? We are all mentor FIRST Robotics teams. We are working remotely from both Pittsburgh and Seattle
    • How did your team meet and/or decide to join together in this challenge? Ryan is Martin’s son, and they have been doing robotics projects for a long time. Ryan and Jason have been mentors on the same FIRST Robotics team for the last 5 years. A link to the competition was posted in an online discussion forum for FIRST robotics participants, and we decided to assemble as a team to compete.
  • Survey – Los Angeles, CA
    • Team Leader: Jascha Little
    • Team Members: 5
  • UCSC Autonomous Rover Team – Santa Cruz, CA
    • Team Leader: Sean Crutchlow
    • Team Members: 5
    • What would your team do with the prize money? If we win prize money, the first thing we will do is pay off any outstanding costs for the project. We will then split the remaining money among ourselves to further our education and future projects.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? Success in this challenge will prove our ability to apply our knowledge and skills on a real-world engineering project. Not only will this serve as the capstone project of our undergraduate education, but it will also kick off our careers by giving us a major accomplishment for our portfolios.
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? All team members encountered some sort of robotics from an early age. A majority of us started playing with LEGOs and erector sets building different structures. As we grew up we learned to assemble pre-made robotics kits and models. Once we got to attending high school, we started venturing off into different robotics clubs, hobbyist kits, and personal projects. Now in our final years of college, we are combining our knowledge of robotics to fulfill a common goal we all have, succeeding in the NASA SRR Challenge.
  • University of Waterloo Robotics Team*- Canada
    • Team Leader: Steven Waslander
    • Team Members: 17
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? As graduate researchers, undergraduate students in Mechatronics and other programs, and as a life-long hobby of tinkering to make cool things.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? Fame, glory and the thrill of completing a daunting challenge. An extremely reliable robot for further research and development. Participation in an active and supportive community of robotics researchers around the world. Validation of some of our research results in a realistic test environment. Well trained engineers ready for exciting careers in robotics. But mostly, to scratch that itch of “Can we do it? Yes, we can!”
    • What are some fun facts about the team and its members (interesting biographies, funny stories, etc)? One of our hardware experts loves to spend 90% of his time working on the robot. This may not be surprising at all, except that he is not your typical engineering student – he is studying finance and actuarial sciences. Most of the team members are under 25. Whenever there is a chance to play hockey or to kick things around in the bay, they jump at the chance. These guys drive the vision team crazy since the most interesting objects to kick around are the samples. Unfortunately, after playing soccer one time last year, the guys could not remember where they left the samples. In addition, the hard
      samples are also well suited as a weight to prevent party tents from flying away in strong wind.
  • Wunderkammer Laboratory- Topanga, CA
    • Team Leader: Jim Rothrock
    • Team Members: 2
    • What would your team do with the prize money? If I Had a Million Dollars…: If Rothrock walks away with the prize, he said paying off his mortgage would be a high priority, followed by developing a solid investment plan for the rest.
    • What are some fun facts about your team and it’s members? Rothrock worked for nearly two decades in visual effects for the motion picture industry on films like “Titanic” and “Tron: Legacy.” He began to realize he wanted to work on real creations, not simulated ones. “I’d rather make a real robot than make a computer-generated robot,” he said.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? Coolness, glory, and money.

Inactive Competitors

  • Complector* – India
    • Team Leader: Monika Tomar
    • Team Members: 10
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? We have been engaged in several robotic activities since our first year of graduation. Robotics is what fascinates us the most in our engineering.
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge?
      International Recognition and Experience by competing against teams from all over the world.
    • What are some fun facts about the team and its members (interesting
      biographies, funny stories, etc)?
      I wish to create dancing robots. One of our team members is creating a small spidey robot that is used as camera and listens to commands using speech recognition. We also won the best maze solving robot in our university in first year.
  • Cyberdyne Systems – Pasadena, CA
    • Team Leader: Stephen Montero
    • Team Members: 1
    • What would your team do with the prize money if you won? Provide research funding for robotics systems development for schools or business.
    • How did your team members become interested in robotics? After seeing my first robot (Robbie) from Forbidden Planet, I was forever hooked!
    • What are some fun facts about the team and its members (interesting biographies, funny stories, etc)? Built a first walking robot at age seven from scratch, it took one step and fell flat on it’s face!
  • KAIST* – South Korea
    • Team Leader: Sungsik Huh
    • Team Members:
  • Mystic Lake Robots – The Woodlands, TX
    • Team Leader: Rud Merriam
    • Team Members: 2
    • What would your team do with the prize money? Use it to support additional work with robotics. Support robotics competition for youth and STEM education. Take a few cruises. (Maybe sponsor a robotics cruise?)
    • What does your team expect to gain by participating in this Challenge? A big sense of accomplishment, fame, notoriety, and some new friends among the other competitors. Maybe NASA will invite me to the launch or landing of a Mars mission.
    • What are the biggest obstacles your team has overcome to be successful in this challenge or in the field of robotics in general? Learning, learning, and more learning on how to do vision processing

* = Demonstration Team