Mars Rover Robot Vex (MRR)

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Request for Proposal: Mars Rover Robot (MRR)


This project reflects real life scenarios; the robot must be able to handle minor imperfections in the course.


This project reflects real life scenarios; the robot must be able to handle imperfections in the course.

Note: You should only use the materials contained in the Price list for VEX & Arduino parts for robot projects. If you want to use other parts, get permission from your faculty member to do so, and also to determine the cost of the parts you want to use that are not in this price list.

Introduction and Overview

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has received increased funding and have been able to reinstate the Constellation program. To help accelerate the process of development, NASA has issued an RFP (request for proposal) for a rover that will be used in the first of the Constellation missions. This rover will provide data about the landing site and begin preparations of the surrounding area to aid the manned missions arriving 26 months later. The robot should be able to get an accurate salinity reading of any water source, collect soil samples, travel across uneven terrain, and return to the landing site.

The mission has two parts that must be completed. The first part uses a salinity sensor to measure the salt content of one water source and a soil collection module to collect a soil sample, both taken by an autonomous robot (see Course Specifications for more details). The second part of this mission involves analyzing a water source and a soil sample. The water must be tested for salt content. There are two soil tests that the robot can choose from: a pH test and a compounds separation test. Once the tests are done, a conclusion must be reached about whether life can exist in the water sources on Mars, and (depending on the soil test) whether plants can potentially grow in the soil and/or if there is enough Fe2O3 and Fe3O4 to produce an adequate amount of rocket fuel.

Course Specifications

Use a CADing software, such as Fushion 360, to design the body of your robot. A model of your design must be built using the materials provided. An arduino program that will direct the robot's movements must be created. A cost estimate of the robot's components must be provided. All revisions to the original design must be recorded and explained. This includes technical design drawings and cost estimates. All revisions to the arduino program must be recorded and explained.

The Mars Rover Robot (MRR) must be able to move autonomously over the surface of Mars and collect salinity readings from a water source and a soil reading from a soil sample. Salinity readings will be taken using a salinity sensor while soil readings will be taken using a soil collection module. The robot must return to start to pick up the next module/sensor; if the robot can hold both the sensor and module while traversing the course, there is no need to go back to start between readings. The robot must finish in the start area, which is 25 cm by 25 cm. There is no height restriction. The part of the robot containing the Vernier sensor and collection modules must also fit within the size specifications.

Projectile (catapult, slingshot) designs are not allowed.

The robot program may not be altered or switched during any part of the mission. The robot must be fully autonomous and cannot be touched by any person during testing. Modules can be attached or placed on the robot so long as the robot is not shifted or altered in any way. Please refer to the course syllabus for all due dates.

The robot must return to the landing site to successfully complete the project.

Main Tasks

The first part of the mission requires the robot to:

  • Collect one water reading using the Vernier salinity sensor
    • Salinity sensor must be dipped into the water sample by the robot
  • Collect one soil sample from a dig site using a collection module
    • The robot must carry the collection module from the Start tile to the dig site
    • Soil collection modules can be placed by hand onto the soil sample once the robot comes within 2 cm of the sample
    • Collection modules are color coded; refer to the layout to determine which module to use
  • Return to the landing site between readings unless the robot can hold both a module and the salinity sensor
  • Return to the landing site after all readings are taken
Figure 1: Soil Collection Modules

Extra Credit

Extra Credit will be awarded if:

  • The robot obtains 3 readings (at least 1 soil and 1 water)
  • The robot crosses the canyon
  • The robot travels up and down the mountain
  • The robot takes a reading from an extra credit tile

Layout

Figure 2: Labeled Mars Rover Course Map

Microsoft Project

You must create a project schedule to manage your time in Microsoft Project. You can learn Microsoft Project by doing the MS Project Skill Builder. This schedule must include all tasks related to the project from the start of the project to Submission. Click here to access the guide on how to transfer a file. The Microsoft Project schedule should include the following:

  • Minimum of 20 tasks, excluding Milestones
  • Milestones should be clearly indicated on the project plan (duration of zero days)
  • Each task must include the person responsible for completing the task (resource names)
  • Use the "Copy Picture" function to include the project plan in the presentations. Do not take a screenshot
  • Gantt chart must be displayed alongside the tasks list (fit onto one slide)
  • Gantt chart must clearly show a progress line
  • Clearly state during the presentation whether the project is on-time, behind schedule, or ahead of schedule

For help planning the project, review the manual page Planning Project Scheduling & Costs.

Drawings

All drawings and sketches should be made using LEGO Digital Designer (LDD). LDD can be installed for free from the LEGO website.

Using LDD, create four drawings of the robot: front, top, most detailed side, and a drawing of the gear train(s). Sensors, motors, and gears must be included in each drawing. If the robot does not use any gears, make sure to explicitly state that in your presentations.

Each revision of the design must be documented and all changes must be presented during Milestone presentations.

Model

Figure 3: Salinity sensor[1].
Figure 4: NXT Sensor Adapter[1].

The following materials will be provided:

  1. VEX kit

* Please note that the salinity sensor and soil collection modules will only be available for use in the Model Shop.

Additional materials can be supplied by a TA.

Cost Estimate

Once a robot design is complete, a cost estimate must be generated that specifies the cost of all the materials and labor required for the construction of the design. Tabulate this cost information clearly in an Excel spreadsheet, using the materials cost list provided. Help in calculating the cost is available by reviewing how to plan the schedule and calculate costs for a project. The costs for the parts can be found on the price list for LEGO parts for robot projects.

Note: You should only use the materials contained in the price list for LEGO parts for robot projects. If you want to use other parts, get permission from your faculty member to do so, and also to determine the cost of the parts you want to use that are not in this price list.

The cost estimate should include the following:

  • Labor cost breakdown with hours and rates
  • Consolidate low-cost pieces: axles, beams, bricks, bushings, connectors, gears, plates
  • Itemize high-cost pieces: controllers (EV3 brick), sensors, motors
  • No decimal places; this is an estimate after all. Round appropriately
  • Total cost must be shown in the bottom right corner

Notebook/Project Journal

While working on your project, you are expected to keep a record of all work done, as well as future plans and goals. In order to complete a Benchmark assessment, you must submit your notebook in .pdf format to the EG1004 website, as well as show your notebook to the Open Lab TA completing your assessment. A guide to writing the notebook, as well as a basic overview of its expectations, can be found here.

Milestones, Benchmarks, and Deliverables

As you work on your project, you will be required to present periodic reports on your progress. We call these Milestones. All of the items assigned in each phase of the project are called Benchmark deliverables. These deliverables often consist of a combination of written submissions, presentations, and demonstrations. Benchmark assessments evaluate the progress of your project.

Preliminary Design Investigation

The Preliminary Design Investigation (PDI) is extremely important, as it lays the groundwork for your project. You will be outlining your project idea, inspiration, and goals.

The PDI must include:

  • Cover Page
  • Project Overview
  • Goals & Objectives
  • Design & Approach
  • Cost Estimate
  • Project Schedule
  • Relevant Pictures

An example PDI template can be found here. The PDI is due by Benchmark A. Do not forget to include the items listed above. Use this link to access the VEX PDI Rubric.


Milestone 1

See How To Give a Milestone Presentation for the format of a Milestone presentation.

Milestone 1 should act as a presentation of your Preliminary Design Investigation. It is important that you outline your project goals and show that your project is realizable. This includes:

  • Project description
  • Design approach
  • Mission statement
  • Preliminary CAD drawing of robot
  • Cost estimate
  • Microsoft Project schedule
      • Click here to access the guide on how to transfer a file
  • Progress update: current state of the project


Look Ahead: What tasks are planned between now and Milestone 2?

Benchmark Assessment A

Benchmark assessments evaluate the progress of your project. Benchmark Assessment A is due at the end of Model Shop Session II. There are penalties for not completing this on time. Refer to the EG1004 Grading Policy for more information.

To pass Benchmark A, your design must complete all of the following:

  • Obtain one soil reading from any of the four available soil sources

Milestone 2

See How To Give a Milestone Presentation for the format of a Milestone presentation.

Milestone 2 Deliverables:

  • Presentation:
    • Project description
    • Design approach
    • Design changes since Milestone 1
    • Mission statement
    • CAD drawings: top, front, most detailed side, isometric, gear train
    • Mindstorms program
    • Updated cost estimate (previous and current). What changes were made?
    • Updated Microsoft Project schedule (previous and current). What changes were made?
    • Progress update: current state of the project (time, budget, etc.)

Look Ahead: What tasks are planned between now and Milestone 3?

Benchmark Assessment B

Benchmark Assessment B is due at the end of Model Shop Session III. There are penalties for not completing this on time. Refer to the EG1004 Grading Policy for more information.

To pass, complete all of the following tasks:

  • Obtain a first soil reading from any of the four available soil sources
  • Return to the landing site to pick up salinity sensor if necessary
  • Obtain a second reading from a water source

Milestone 3

See How To Give a Milestone Presentation for the format of a Milestone presentation.

Milestone 3 Deliverables:

  • Presentation:
    • Project description
    • Design approach
    • Design changes since Milestone 2
    • Mission statement
    • CAD drawings: top, front, most detailed side, isometric, gear train
    • Mindstorms program
    • Updated cost estimate (previous and current). What changes were made?
    • Updated Microsoft Project schedule (previous and current). What changes were made?
    • Progress update: current state of the project (time, budget, etc.)

Look ahead: What tasks are planned between now and the completion of the project?

Commissioning

Refer to the syllabus for the Commissioning deadline. There are penalties for not completing this on time. Refer to the EG1004 Grading Policy for more information.

To pass, the design must complete all of the following:

  • Obtain a water and soil reading
  • Return to the landing site
  • Conduct all corresponding tests
  • Completed Part 2 Template of test results from Data Specifications: Analysis
    • NOTE: UAI students do NOT need to complete Part 2 in order to commission


Final Presentation

The Final Presentation will be a technical briefing, similar to the Milestones, but also serves as a sales presentation explaining why your company should be selected instead of the competition. Please include the following:

  • Problem statement
  • Solution overview
  • Company description and qualifications
  • Drawings
  • Mindstorms program
  • Cost estimate
  • Microsoft Project schedule
  • Video demonstration
  • Why should the company be awarded this contract?

Submission

All SLDPs must be submitted online. Please visit this page for the link to the Project Submission form and each SLDP group's individualized login information. To submit, you must login to the EG1004 website using this special login information. Submitting with your NYU account or any other account will generate an error.

Please note the deliverables for this project are as follows. If any of the following items are missing, you will be penalized. Give yourselves plenty of time to upload all necessary files, especially the large ones which take longer. Be sure to click submit at the bottom of the form. The following list includes deliverable items that are expected from your group:

  • Submission deliverables:
    • Final presentation
    • Final Mindstorms program
    • Initial sketch
    • All the drawings of your design (initial through final)
    • Video
    • Final MS Project Schedule
    • Final cost estimate
    • Resume(s) (No fictitious resumes will be accepted.)
    • Completed Part 2 Template of test results from Data Specifications: Analysis

Early Submission

If you submit your project one academic week early (before the end of your lab period the week before the Final Submission Deadline), you are eligible for a bonus that will be added to your final semester-long project grade. You must submit all deliverables one academic week before the submission deadline (see syllabus for exact date). The deliverables received early are the ones you will use in your presentation. No adjustments to the submitted deliverables will be accepted.

Late Submission

Late Submission is not allowed. If you do not Commission or Partial Commission by the deadline set forth in the syllabus, you will not be allowed to submit and will receive a zero for the project grade. In order to receive Partial Commissioning, two TAs must evaluate the project and determine its degree of completion according to the Commissioning requirements and you will be given a grade accordingly. Please refer to the EG1004 Grading Policy for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Could we take readings from both the regular and extra credit options of a sample?

No. You can only go for one sample in each category (i.e. cannot get both regular water and extra credit water)

Can we bump the course if the robot gets stuck?

No. You can't bump Mars, so bumping the course is not an option.

Can we rubber band the soil collection module to the robot?

No. The module has to be fixed to the robot using only EV3 pieces that came in your kit. Regular Legos cannot be used.

Can we put the soil collection module back on the robot once it's been placed on a soil sample?

No. The soil collection module must remain on the soil sample for the rest of the robot's run.

Appendix: Programming with Vernier Sensors

In order to program the EV3 to obtain a reading using a Vernier sensor, a special sensor block that must be used. This block does not initially come with the EV3 programs, but can be easily downloaded. The computers in the Model Shop and all the EG lab rooms already have this sensor block on the programs. If you would like to download it onto your own computer, please look at the instructions below.

Downloading the Sensor Block: EV3

The instructions are the same for downloading the EV3 sensor block. On [www.vernier.com www.vernier.com], search for "Vernier EV3 Sensor Block" and click on the first link on the search results page.

Once at this webpage, click on "Download Vernier EV3 Sensor Block – Version 0.79" and save the "Vernier Sensor Block.ev3b" folder to a place where it can be accessed easily.

Start the EV3 software on your computer. At the top of the screen click on "Tools" -> "Block Import." A screen will pop up that looks very similar to the one in Figure 18. Click on "Browse" and search for the "Vernier Sensor Block.ev3b" file that was recently downloaded from the website. After a few seconds, the words "Vernier Sensor Block.ev3b" will appear in the box under "Name." Click on the name and hit import; the file will be downloaded.

Using the Sensor Block: EV3

Start the EV3 software on your computer and open a new program. On the bottom of the window, click on the yellow sensors palette, different sensors should be visible at the bottom of the screen. Click and hold on to the Vernier Sensor icon and drag it onto the main frame.

On the Vernier sensor block there should be button that says "Raw" right underneath the green picture that says Vernier. This button is shown in Figure 21.

Figure 21: Vernier sensor block (EV3).

After the button is pressed go to "Measure" -> "More Sensors" -> "Salinity ppt." You should see that the image looks similar to the one in Figure 22.

Figure 22: Salinity sensor block.

Now, we are going to create a program to make the robot continuously measure the salinity and display the reading on the EV3 brick. To do this, we must input a loop that can be found under the orange palette. Drag the loop onto the main frame. It should now look like the program in Figure 23.

Figure 23: Loop with salinity sensor block.
  • To change the runtime to a specific amount of time, click on the infinity symbol under the red arrows on the loop switch and change it to time, which can be found all the way at the bottom. Change the number to the right of the button to the desired time.

We are now going to have the salinity reading display on the EV3 brick. Go to the green palette at the bottom of the program, click on the display block and drag it onto the main frame. On the display block, click on the image folder and go to text, then pixels. The block should look like the one in Figure 24.

Figure 24: Display block.

At the top of the display sensor block, the name "MINDSTORMS" is displayed. Click on the name and change it to "Wired." The block should look exactly the same except with one more slot immediately to the left of the spot with the check mark. Input the display block into the loop previously made and wire it like the picture in Figure 25. This program will now allow the salinity sensor to read the measurement and display it on the brick until the program is stopped.

Figure 25: Sample salinity reading program.
  • Note: For measuring salinity for Part 2, it's recommended to run the loop continuously in order to continuously display the salinity until the program is stopped.

References