MC students competing in robotics, bridge contests

School's out for the summer, but Merrimack College has students and recent graduates at two national competitions this week: the sixth annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the National Student Steel Bridge Competition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The robotics team’s competition is scheduled to live-stream at May 22 at 9:00 a.m. The competition runs from May 18 to 22.

Merrimack’s robotics team, in Melbourne, Fla., includes Abdulwahab Alabodi , Christopher Hart, Nathaniel DeParis, Thomas Shanahan and Andrew Joyaol.

The team must guide its robot though a Mars-like terrain to gather 22 pounds of regolith within 10 minutes. Regolith is material such as dust, soil and broken rock that covers solid rock on Earth and its moon, Mars, asteroids, and other planets and moons.

The competition has real exploratory value, according to NASA; it is conceivable technology developed in the competition can be used to mine regolith on Mars as early as the 2030s.

“I think one of the positive outcomes of this is, next year we’re going to do this again as a capstone (project),” said Electrical and Engineering Department associate professor William Bowhers, who’s already discussed the idea with Civil Engineering Department associate professor Franco Capaldi.

The steel bridge competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction and the American Society of Civil Engineers, runs from May 22-23.

Making it to the national competition for steel bridge building is remarkable achievement for Merrimack, said civil engineering associate professor Marc Veletzos, the team adviser.

“It’s huge,” he said. “It puts us on a national level, we get to compete against some of the top schools in the country; not just small liberal arts schools with an education focus, we compete against research institutions, it puts us on a much larger scale.”

The steel bridge team includes about 18 students.

The steel bridge team earned a spot in the nationals during the regional competition hosted on Merrimack’s campus April 10 to 11.

“It’s not easy to organize one of these events,” said Veletzos. “It was quite a feat to be able to do that and build a bridge to meet all the requirements that did well.”

The bridge the team is using to compete in Kansas City is the same one used in the regional competition, but has been painted white through the support of an alumnus.

“I am incredibly impressed with out team,” Veletzos said. “They have done such a phenomenal job with all that has happened this year and hosting the regional this year it is incredible for them to make it to national.”



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