During my time at Stanford, I was an active member of the Mars Rover Team within the Stanford Robotics Club (http://roboticsclub.stanford.edu). Our goal was to develop a multi-function robotic rover that could traverse long distances, navigate autonomously, perform science experiments on soil chemistry, and manipulate fine controls on a mock sample recovery rocket--all under a tight weight constraint. Our first generation robot, Clover the Rover, was submitted to the International University Rover Challenge (part of the Mars Society) and accepted as a finalist, a rarity among first year submissions. The second generation rover, Anakin Sandwalker, was improved from lessons learned in our first generation design, and won third place overall and first place in a number of categories.
My primary role was in redesigning parts to be lighter while maintaining strength and rigidity. To keep costs down, many of our parts were off-the-shelf and not optimized for weight. However, by disassembling them and re-assembling them with custom, lighter, but equally strong, replacements (3D printing was a very effective means of accomplishing this), we could increase the size of our batteries and motors, and give us a little more wiggle room. For example, my redesign of the antenna system reduced the total weight of the rover by 10%.
The team traveled to the Mars Society Research Base in the Utah desert, where we worked in a simulated Mars environment to test our rover against those from other universities around the world. Below are a few photos of the team and me working on the rover in the desert, along with our original application video to the University Rover Challenge.