Colombia doesn’t have a space program, but as of Friday, it does have an elite aerospace engineering team.
RoboCol, a group of 15 assorted engineering students and two designers from the Bogota-based Andes University, finished fourth place out of 50 international participants in the Lunabotics Mining Competition held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its work on “Intensity”, a robot designed to traverse lunar terrain.
Apart from the high overall ranking, which comes with a sizable grant that will allow the team to continue its project, RoboCol placed third in the efficiency of communications and use of social networking categories.
2013 was the third year in a row that RoboCol has entered the Lunabotics competition. What started on a whim in 2011, when a couple friends decided to put together a submission (they managed to reach 19th place), became more organized last year (they finished ninth), and made a point of actively recruiting this year, when group leader Jorge Mario Garzon set the goal the team eventually accomplished of breaking the top five barrier.
“Intensity”, which had to cross six miles of moon sand under artificially induced space-like conditions, is 30 inches wide and over a yard long and weighs in at about 105 pounds.
With the grant as a platform, RoboCol plans to continue perfecting its design, and hopes to enter it in other competitions in the future. Garzon explains that the technology could be just as useful on Earth as on the Moon. “You can imagine that instead of having workers excavating, we could have these robots. That’s what our robot provides for any type of mining.”