MAVRIC takes on University Rover Challenge

The MAVRIC team competed in the 2017 University Rover Challenge held in Hanksville, Utah and organized by the Mars Society. The competition, which took place from June 1-3, featured a record 82 teams from across the world.  

Based on a video submission and report, the URC trims the field to 36 teams that are then invited to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in the southern desert of Utah. MAVRIC was one of the 36 teams invited to compete in Utah. High temperatures, dust and sand were just a few of the elements the teams and their rovers had to deal with as they aimed to complete four tasks: Equipment Servicing, Science Cache, and new this year was the Extreme Delivery and Traversal and a fully autonomous mode task.  

The MAVRIC team at the MDRS Habitat.

The MAVRIC team faced many challenges upon arrival to the MDRS. Electrical issues caused a problem with control of the arm on the first task which was the Extreme Delivery and Traversal task. After the team debugged many of the issues, they competed the next day in the Equipment Servicing task only to have an electrical short that disabled the rover shortly into the task. On the final day, the team was able to compete in the Science Cache task only to have another problem with the rovers drive motors. The team was able to compete to the end, but the electrical issues resulted in a final score of 146.6 points and put them at 31st place.  

“The MAVRIC team learned a lot from this experience and they worked very hard on the rover, often working through the night to make repairs to the rover.” said Matthew Nelson, Make to Innovate Director and also accompanied the team on the trip.

Nelson also stated that the extreme environment in the desert often causes electrical systems to fail. The team is currently planning on a new design for the rover that can compete in the URC in 2018.

M:2:I’s Cardinal Flight has successful first flight

Arrow during its inaugural flight on Sunday morning.

Arrow, the newest aircraft created by the Make to Innovate Program, Cardinal Flight, had it’s inaugural flight on Sunday morning in an airfield in Newton, IA. Arrow is a 18 ft. wingspan electric powered sailplane designed to incorporate solar panels.

The aircraft was designed and manufactured entirely by students of Cardinal Flight. With Arrow, Cardinal Flight’s goal is to create a solar assisted aircraft from traditional hobby grade and off-the-shelf component in hopes of impacting the future of small Un-manned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV). 

Project leader Eli Lockwood was very pleased with the first flight. “The first flight today was amazing,” Lockwood said. “Arrow flew phenomenally; however, due to a weak point the T-tail separated during a failed on the second takeoff attempt. The tail is not a big issue and no other structure was damaged; it will give the team something more to work on next semester.”

Watch video of the flight below:

CySLI competes in NASA’s Student Launch

Huntsville, AL –  Iowa State’s Student Launch Initiative team, CySLI, was in Hunstville, AL Saturday for NASA’s Student Launch Initiative. Forty universities competed, launching rockets to as close to one mile above ground level as possible. CySLI is part of the Department of Aerospace Engineering’s Make to Innovate program.

At the competition, CySLI took home hardware for the second-consecutive year, winning the Best Looking Rocket Award. The team’s launch reached 4,485 ft., coming within 795 ft. of the one mile marker.

CySLI’s rocket, Cardinal Heavy, used the roll induction and counter roll payload. With this design, the system is capable of controlling a launch vehicle’s roll post motor burnout. After two rotations, it induced a counter rolling moment to halt all rolling motion for the duration of the ascent.

Click the video below to watch the pre-launch interview and to see the team’s launch.

M:2:I projects on display at Aero Expo

MAVRIC Project Leader Daniel Mallek talks with IAC member Rich Rezabek at the M:2:I Aero Expo

Make to Innovate held the Aero Expo on Tuesday afternoon in Howe Hall. The 13 M:2:I groups had a chance to display their projects and speak with students and faculty regarding the progress and future goals.

The aerospace engineering Industrial Advisory Council, which is made up of aerospace professionals, was in attendance and spent an hour and a half speaking with the students.

Many of the teams are putting the finish touches on their designs and will compete in competitions this spring. For more information about Make to Innovate, visit the M:2:I website.

Team CySat selected for NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative

This article was first published on iowastatedaily.com. To view the article in it’s entirety, please click here

By Mitchell LaFrance


A group of students from the Make to Innovate program (M:2:I) has recently been chosen by NASA to participate in the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI), which aims to enable universities and other institutions to learn more about space technology, exploration and education. 

The team, known as CySat, will be building a nanosatellite that will map out asteroids and other near-Earth objects.  

Through the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or ELaNa, the NASA CSLI program aspires to encourage public-private technology partnerships, further low-cost development and reinforce that nation’s future space workforce, according to a NASA website overview.   

These missions are flown aboard ride-share launches through either government payloads or from Venture Class Launch Service (VCLS) contracts. 

Various firms from around the world have provided launch vehicles for ELaNa and CubeSat missions, including the United States Air Force, Virgin Galactic and Rocket Lab USA. 

Rami Shoukih, junior in aerospace engineering and team leader for the project, said that while the mission itself is important, the main goal of the CySat M:2:I group is to get students interested in space and the industry it encompasses. 

“We want to usher in the ability for students to get hands-on experience on space-based applications so that they can apply classroom knowledge to real-life projects,” Shoukih said. 

The CySat initiative hopes to one day provide the opportunity for other institutions and small businesses to request the production of a satellite, and CySat would then build one on its behalf. 

“CySat hopes to one day be a service provider for other educational institutions or small businesses who don’t really have the ability to create their own satellites,” Shoukih said. “They can basically ask us to create a satellite for them using our CubeSat, and they would just have to provide us with the payload they want.”

The satellites are rather small, measuring only 10-by-10-by-11 centimeters and weighing about 3 pounds. 

CySat’s mission is to gather data that would allow it to take physical samples of asteroids that fly near Earth. Its goal is to learn more about those asteroids and relay that information to NASA. 

The team is currently producing a CubeSat that would mimic those actions but hopes to build a satellite that would fulfill those duties on a real asteroid in the near future.

“Our first mission is to get us through the door,” Shoukih said. “We took an interest in asteroid prospecting, and our first concept satellite is just proof that this is possible, but a future mission would require us to create a satellite that actually does what it needs to do, and that is to send it to an asteroid and gather data that we could then send to NASA for further inspection.”

The team is currently using special radar technology that will allow it to take pictures of the asteroid and then interpret what the object is made of and how large it is.

“The CySat team is working on a remote-sensing type of platform right now,” Matthew Nelson, M:2:I program coordinator, said. “And they’re using synthetic aperture radar on this particular platform. The long-term goal is to use SAR to map out NEOs (Near Earth Objects).”

This type of endeavor brings many challenges, but they may not always be expected.

Shoukih explained that as the team leader for the project, the biggest challenge for him has been to help keep the team members motivated on the project.

He understands that balancing schoolwork and a big project like this can be difficult, but it can provide the members an opportunity to market the project to future employers.  

“I’m very proud of what the students have done so far, especially getting accepted into this [CSLI],” Nelson said. “I’m very happy and excited to see the students get this opportunity. … I can’t say enough about how hard the students have worked on this project.”

M:2:I project featured in E&T Magazine

After winning the Rhode & Schwarz 2 Minutes Competition, the M:2:I MAVRIC team was featured in Engineering & Technology Magazine. E&T Magazine is a science, engineering and technology magazine in the United Kingdom that is distributed to over 140,000 people.

Click here to read the entire article at E&T’s website.


A Mars rover project developed by a team from Iowa State University has been announced as the winner of the Rohde & Schwarz 2 minutes competition, which saw shortlisted applicants pitch their ideas in a two-minute video.

Launched last June, the competition offered a chance to win a newly developed Scope Rider: a handheld oscilloscope with all of the functionality of a lab unit. The competition was designed to uncover unique application ideas for the oscilloscope and was launched dramatically with a Scope Rider being sent into space, being exposed to heights of 32km and temperatures of -60°C.

“Since launching R&S Scope Rider customers have come to us with no end of really different ways in which they are using the instrument, so we decided to start a thorough search for the most unusual or innovative applications,” explains Steven Edwards, director sales operations and marketing at Rohde & Schwarz UK Ltd.

The initial round of the competition attracted 350 entries from 30 countries. Judges whittled these down to eight short-listed candidates, with each team awarded a GoPro Hero4 Silver. These finalists were then provided with a Scope Rider in order to make a short video demonstrating their idea.

The shortlist included diverse ideas from both academic and commercial entrants including oil and gas exploration systems, the development of a commercial space station and troubleshooting sailing and electrics.

“We make systems and equipment for use in offshore oil and gas exploration,” says Jody Feltham of UK-based company Seamap. “Our idea was to show how we could use the Scope Rider to fault find and install our equipment onboard a vessel while at sea.

“Unfortunately, the competition fell at a point when no engineers were at sea, meaning they weren’t able to showcase the use of the instrument in extreme conditions. However, office-based filming and some editing meant Seamap was still able to convey how useful the Scope Rider would be to its operations.”

In the USA, Astronautics Corp was interested in using the Scope Rider to assist them in diagnosing a wind speed and direction instrument – a tough challenge given the difficult placement of the wiring and the proximity to water.

“The challenge I had was finding time to get out on my friend’s sailboat due to weather conditions,” notes Greg Hahn. “You don’t want too much or too little wind. There were no schematics and the boat was wired up by my friend’s father, an electrical engineer, who is now deceased. He didn’t have any notes on the electronics upgrades that had been done over the years so of course the troubleshooting took much longer than expected, and the entire system still isn’t working perfectly.”

But the projects weren’t just limited to being earthbound. Young Texan company Intuitive Machines is currently developing a commercial space station called Axiom.

“We are currently under contract to design a commercial space station to be launched early in the next decade,” says electrical design engineer Greg Hall. “This commercial space station will be manned and contain a science and engineering laboratory. It will be incumbent for the researchers on board to have instrumentation like the Scope Rider to properly monitor and manage experiments as well as troubleshooting on-board systems.”

A combination of the judges’ opinion and social media reaction to the project videos led to a team from the Make to Innovate (M:2:I) project at Iowa State University ultimately being declared the winner.

The M:2:I program, sponsored by Boeing, allows students to participate in aerospace design projects that address real-world problems.

Their winning project was MAVRIC – the Mars Analog Vehicle for Robotic Inspection and Construction. Founded in 2008, the student team competes annually in the annual University Rover Challenge. This contest, held at the Mars desert research station, attracts team from all over the world who are hoping to design and build the next generation of Mars rover.

The MAVRIC team is composed of students with several different backgrounds including aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer engineering. Their goal for this year is to continue to test and refine their rover in preparation for the 2017 URC.

“The team saw an advertisement when browsing Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange online and thought ‘we could really use an instrument like the Scope Rider’,” explains MAVRIC project lead Danny Mallek. “We conducted a lot of testing out in the field, where normal bench-top equipment cannot go. The Scope Rider, being both portable and durable, is able to handle the fieldwork quite easily. The team can bring it anywhere and perform many different tests on the rover with it.”

With the Scope Rider able to provide troubleshooting onsite, the team anticipate these improved testing capabilities will allow them to speed up problem diagnosis and solving significantly.

The main problem that the team faces is that of manpower – particularly within the electrical team.

“The team currently has only a few experienced members and everyone else is learning. Due to some of the complexity in the rover’s electrical system, this created a challenge for the students working on the rover.  To help solve this problem, the team utilises a task management system that breaks large tasks into smaller ones, to help guide the way for those who are lost or stuck,” says Danny.

“The road to competition is going be long and paved with challenges, but I believe we can pull though. This year, our competition has an autonomous navigation task, where the rover must drive itself through a series of gates in the Utah desert,” Danny continues. “With our relatively young electrical team, it will be tough to meet this objective. The good news it that we have already started development of such a system, and the results are promising!”

MAVRIC wins Rohde & Schwarz 2 minutes competition

mavric-rover

Rohde & Schwarz, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of test & measurement, communications and broadcasting equipment,announced the winner of the 2 minutes competition. MAVRIC, a Make to Innovate project at Iowa State University was declared the winner of the international competition.

Applicants were asked to submit a two-minute video detailing how they would use the R&S Scope Rider, a rugged portable oscilloscope from Rohde & Schwarz.

After reading about the competition online, MAVRIC project lead, Daniel Mallek, created the video. “We went out and did some testing with a loaner scope to show the capabilities of the oscilloscope and why this product would be useful for us. I had a lot of fun doing that.”

The winner with the most votes in an online poll won their very own R&S Scope Rider.  

Steven Edwards, Marketing Director at Rohde & Schwarz UK Ltd. said, “We are very pleased to announce Iowa State University’s MAVRIC team as the winner of the R&S Scope Rider. The Iowa State students really showed that this truly is a go anywhere instrument – and we wish them every success in the upcoming URC challenge.”

mavric-video-still
A still from the video Mallek submitted, showcasing the oscilloscope and the MAVRIC rover.

MAVRIC will put the new Scope Rider to the test when they visit Utah in early June for the University Rover Challenge, the world’s premier robotics competition for college students. After that, it will be kept in the M:2:I lab for future teams to use for their work.

“It’s a rugged oscilloscope,” Mallek said. “It can be moved anywhere. You can’t do that with a normal oscilloscope and that’s what we need for our application. We do a competition in the middle of the desert and there is no power you can easily hook up to. Normal oscilloscopes can get dust in them which can cause malfunctions.”

Matthew Nelson, program coordinator for M:2:I said, “It is amazing to be announced the winner of the 2 minutes competition and receive our very own R&S Scope Rider. When the competition was announced, Danny and James Talbert, the Electrical Team Lead were excited as they knew this was the perfect instrument to help debug their design actually out in the field rather than having to take it back to the lab each time after a test run.”

Below is the video that Mallek submitted for the contest.

M:2:I projects on display at the poster expo

m2i-poster-expo

Make to Innovate hosted the fall poster expo today in Howe Hall. All 13 M:2:I teams put their projects on display for spectators to observe and learn about.

At this point in the semester, many teams have begun fine tuning their designs for competitions that will occur in the spring. The expo gave teams a great way to show off their progress while also allowing other students to learn more about the projects and M:2:I.

As part of the program, M:2:I students visited the other booths and evaluated the groups on their poster and presentation.

The 2016-17 projects are 6D Sub, AIAA Design, Build, Fly, Boeing Technical Concepts, Cardinal Flight, CyNest, CyStat, CySLI, Eagle Eye, HABET, ISUAV, Kerbal Space Capsule, MAVRIC, and Sailbot.

The Make to Innovate program announces sponsorship with Boeing

muilenburg_m2i-sign
Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing, announces the partnership between M:2:I and Boeing.

The Make to Innovate (M:2:I) program at Iowa State University is delighted to announce sponsorship from The Boeing Company. Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company will sponsor a partnership that aligns an industry leader with engineering students at Iowa State University.

The M:2:I program, which began in 2011, provides students the opportunity to participate in aerospace design projects that address real-world problems. Currently, over 200 students are involved, working on 13 projects.

“In five short years, M:2:I has progressed from an idea to the signature program for our department, and we are proud to have Boeing as our sponsor,” said Rich Wlezien, chair of the department.

Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing who earned his BS from Iowa State in 1986, made a few remarks in Howe Hall on Wednesday before the new logo was unveiled. “Boeing is very proud of this partnership,” Muilenburg said. “We think Boeing can add value to the pipeline of talented engineers created by the Make to Innovate program.”

Boeing employees will serve as technical advisors for five projects, mentoring the students as they establish future connections for life after Iowa State. In return, students get real-world experience that will give them the tools to become better engineers.

“The sponsorship will help M:2:I to better support our students’ projects, and equip our students with the resources and equipment they need,” Matt Nelson, Director of M:2:I said. “Boeing will be a great resource to our students for additional insight from industry engineers about their projects.”

Click here to view photos from the event.