There they were, at 10,000 feet on the remote and rugged slopes of the Mauna Kea volcano on the big island of Hawaii, running their robot through the same volcanic soil NASA uses to test space rovers.
“This was otherworldly,” said Jim Heise, the faculty adviser for Cyclone Space Mining. Six teams of students from across the country mined soil in what was billed as the first “World Cup” of robotic space mining sponsored by Hawaii’s Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.
During the July 21-25 competition, Cyclone Space Mining continued to demonstrate the strength of its robot miner, taking first in the Best Design and Innovation Award and second in the Mining Award. In 40 minutes of mining, the Iowa Staters finished just 40 pounds short of the winning team from West Virginia University.
The new competition also taught the team some lessons for the annual NASA contest in Florida.
“There is so much we learned and so much we need to go through,” Heise said. “We do know we have an excellent design, but we did learn we need to do more with driver training.”
On the flight home, in fact, he said students discussed how they could build an even better mining robot.
The story first appeared here.