North Carolina Space Grant provides support for undergraduate and graduate student teams for STEM competitions and other experiences. The teams below provided videos and/or posters to showcase their activities and accomplishments for the 2021-22 academic year. Learn more about all the teams NC Space Grant supported this year.

The menu at right provides links to pre-recorded talks and posters by individual students who received other NC Space Grant funding in 2021-2022.

Campbell University – Human Exploration Rover Team

NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge

This presentation will showcase the operations of the Campbell University HERT for the 2021-2022 competition year. It will highlight our team’s design process, which includes brainstorming, prototyping, fabrication, implementation, and testing. Through collaboration and teamwork efforts, we were able to design and fabricate an operable, 2-person human-powered rover. Over the past year, a number of major modifications were made to the rover’s steering, suspension, and wheel subsystems to optimize the rover’s efficiency, size, and safety. Our team designs all subassemblies in Solidworks prior to the manufacturing of parts to ensure the rover is within certain dimensional requirements. With the help of one of our sponsors, Ansys, we are able to use finite element analysis to predict the structural integrity of our subsystems. The team fabricates many of its assemblies in-house and utilizes a carbon fiber 3D printer to reinforce these systems. The main focus of this poster is to demonstrate the design decisions and elements that went into our rover and exemplify our team’s progress in this year’s NASA HERC competition.

Faculty Advisor: Lee Rynearson, Campbell University

NC State University – Aerial Robotics Club

AUVSI International Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Competition

Advancing the State of UAS Technology with Innovation and Collaboration

The Aerial Robotics Club at NC State is an undergraduate engineering student group that designs and builds custom unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to complete a variety of challenges. The focus of the project is to compete in the AUVSI Student Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS) international competition. The mission tasks include autonomous flight, image recognition, and airdrop delivery. The club develops technologies across a range of engineering fields including aerospace, electrical, computer science, etc. In order to meet the challenges presented by building and operating unmanned aircraft. In addition to designing and manufacturing practical systems, the club fields extensive testing programs to adequately assess the performance of its aircraft and support systems. 

The Aerial Robotics Club’s primary research and competition aircraft, Akela 3, is a fixed-wing airplane designed to carry a large payload while remaining light, compact, and maneuverable. The main payload systems are an open-source Pixhawk 2 flight controller, Intel NUC flight computer, mirrorless camera and gimbal, and Arduino-controlled airdrop system. The Akela 3 system is capable of delivering an unmanned ground vehicle to a predesignated target, where the vehicle can autonomously drive to a specified location. The systems for autonomous control of the aircraft are paired with a RadioMaster TX16S MAX transmitter and ImmersionRC Ghost receiver for manual flight. Ground control is handled using the Mission Planner software in the club’s custom Ground Control Trailer. 

This research has wide applications in the aerospace industry and government functions such as surveillance, communications, and autonomous recognition. The club’s ultimate goal is to advance the state of UAS technology with innovation and collaboration to succeed in the SUAS competition.

Faculty Advisor: Felix Ewere, North Carolina State University

NC State University – Tacho Lycos High-Powered Rocketry Team

NASA Student Launch Competition

The team designed and built a rocket for the NASA Student Launch competition that can reach an altitude of between 4,000 and 6,000 feet and be safely recovered. The rocket must descend in under 90 seconds and drift less that 2,500 feet from the launch rail. The competition also required the design of a payload that was tasked with identifying the location of the rocket on the launch field without the use of GPS. This payload system that was designed is named Aerial Photographing and Positioning Apparatus (APPA). APPA uses state-space tracking to measure the movement and determine the relative position of the launch vehicle during flight. APPA will collect visual data with two cameras, acceleration, and orientation data with an inertial measurement unit (IMU), and altitude data with a barometric altimeter. Visual data will be processed with an image recognition framework to determine the launch vehicle’s relative location throughout the flight. This relative location data will be synthesized with inertial data via an Extended Kalman Filter (EKF) to determine the launch vehicle’s final location. Upon landing, APPA will transmit the final grid location to the ground station using LoRa.

Faculty Advisor: Felix Ewere, NC State University

University of North Carolina at Charlotte – 49er Miners

NASA Lunabotics Competition

NASA’s Artemis Lunabotics Challenge is a university-level competition in which teams participate to design and construct a rover that can transverse and excavate in a lunar-like environment to fulfill certain requirements. The rover must overcome certain challenges to operate in a lunar environment and excavate icy regolith located underneath a layer of lunar BP-1. There are three phases to the challenge: “Design It, Build It, Dig it.” 

During the first two phases, UNC Charlotte has utilized the resources from previous years to improve the design to create a more efficient autonomous rover. The Charlotte 49er Miners team advanced the design and build using sound engineering principles that encompass design specifications and constraints set by NASA. They have constructed a rover that contains four subsystems: Chassis, Mining, Energy Consumption, and Instrumentation/Control. The team performed analysis to optimize the subsystems, so as to acquire the most points within the competition. For the mining, the team developed a newly constructed conveyor belt and digging drum nozzle that mitigates loss of regolith when depositing. The redesigned power distribution uses a custom PCB panel to connect the power supply to all components of the rover while monitoring power consumption. Finally, autonomy is achieved using rigorous path planning algorithms, localization hardware, depth-sensing cameras, and encoders to control numerous operations of the rover’s mission. 

The last phase, “Dig It,” consists of the team traveling to an on-site competition at the NASA Kennedy Space Center. The competition has three components: inspection, presentation, and two mining competition runs. Prior to the official competition, the team plans to complete rigorous testing in the UNC Charlotte simulated arena to validate the performance of the system; this will increase the likelihood of successful runs in the official NASA arenas and hopefully bring the trophy back to Charlotte.

Faculty Advisor: Aidan Browne, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

University of North Carolina at Charlotte – 49er Rocketry Team

NASA Student Launch Competition

Our project was to design and build a vehicle and payload to abide by the 2022 NASA USLI Handbook. The competition is between many colleges across the country, with the competition stretching from August 2021 to May 2022. The team had to design and build a sub-scale vehicle to prove to NASA that the full-scale airframe design was stable and safe. The sub-scale launches were a success at proving our designs are safe to move forward in full-scale vehicle construction. The payload has to be able to locate the vehicle’s landing position on a 5,000 square foot grid system, with the max grid size being 250 square feet. This must all be done without the use of GPS. Our plan for this was to use a camera-vision payload that has a gimballed camera that is extended out of the bottom of the payload during descent. The team has conducted several tests with the gimbal system to ensure the photos taken are not blurry. The team will be launching the full-scale vehicle on February 12,19 and possibly 26. The highlight of this competition is going to the NASA center in Huntsville, AL, and launching the full-scale vehicle at Bragg Farms. The team is looking forward to attending the event in Huntsville and hopes to defend our university’s first-place title!

Faculty Advisor: Jerry Dahlberg, UNC Charlotte

University of North Carolina at Pembroke – UNCP Rocket Team

First Nations Launch Competition

The UNC-Pembroke Rocket team will be competing in the Mars Engineering Challenge which requires teams to modify a dual-deploy kit rocket to meet the challenge requirements. The rocket must achieve a minimum altitude of 3,500’ but not exceed 4,000’. During the coast phase of ascent, after motor burnout and prior to apogee, the rocket must achieve a roll rate of 120-140 rotations per minute and sustain that rate for 3 seconds. The rocket must then return to a roll rate of 0 rpm before apogee and parachute deployment. All rockets participating in the Mars Engineering Challenge must have an onboard gyroscope and external camera in order to verify the required roll rate was achieved.

Faculty Advisor: Steven Singletary, University of North Carolina at Pembroke