Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Mechanical Engineering

Research Sponsor

Dr. Christopher Daniels

First Reader

Max Fightmaster


The purpose of this design project is to design a digging core for a lunar robot that will collect large amounts of material buried beneath the surface of Mars so one day, astronauts can use those resources. This lunar robot will be competing in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition, where teams from universities around the country display and test their designs. This design must adhere to a newly implemented rule which states that the amount of gravel a robot collects will determine the team score. The layer of gravel is located underneath a layer of Regolith, which simulates the surface of Mars. Different digging concepts were considered, but a plow and bucket system became the focus. The bucket design is directly influenced by excavators one would see at a construction site. A plow sits in front of the bucket and will start the digging cycle by clearing the top layer of Regolith out of the way for the bucket to dig deeper in the ground. The bucket assembly requires a linear actuator in order to get the desired excavating motion and a motor to rotate the bucket arm in order to for it to raise and lower. The plow utilizes a vertical linear actuator and linear slide bearings to ensure a smooth travel path. Once the full assembly was completed, certain aspects of the design required redesign. For example, a plow bearing needed an orientation switch, and more bracing was required. When the assembly of the entire lunar robot was completed, a full digging cycle test was conducted in a practice sandpit. The plow was successful in pushing away a significant layer of unwanted materials and the bucket was able to collect and dump gravel. Redesigns were required for optimization, and would be implemented at a later date. Thus, the robotic mining digging core design met all of its requirements and functioned properly.