Using the NASA moon rover as their inspiration, robotics students at Lake City Secondary School are nearing completion of a working, remote-controlled, wheeled robot rover of their own design.
The rover, named The Helios Vulturem (Helios was the Greek titan of the sun, and Vulturem is Latin for Falcon — the school’s mascot and namesake) was designed by Grade 12 robotics students Nathan Cisecki, Jonathan Wolfe, Jayden Guichon, Eric DeVuyst and Colby Ostrom under the guidance of robotics teacher Nick MacDonald, along with some assistance from Grade 11/12 metalwork students Cole Rochefort and Cameron Smithson.
The students began the year disassembling a broken-down, miniature quad to eliminate broken parts and repair salvageable ones, while the metalwork students welded the broken steering column and assisted in the reconfiguration of the chassis.
“We’d seen this quad sitting up there on a shelf in Mr. MacDonald’s class in Grade 10, and he mentioned to us it would be our senior year project, but we never thought we’d be able to make it into a rover,” Ostrom said.
“It’s crazy. Four years has led up to this,” Cisecki added.
The robot — currently powered by four, six volt and two, 12 volt batteries — is remote controlled using a programmable Arduino processor, built upon by the students from programming code left behind by former School District 27 information technology member Aaron Ulrich.
The project, which will see the students receive Capstone Project credits for, has turned into a passion for the group.
“It’s pretty neat for these guys,” MacDonald said. “They’ve come all the way from Grade 9 to Grade 12 and here we are.”
Problems and setbacks, naturally, occurred during the rebuilding process, testing the students’ problem solving ability throughout.
“We needed to figure out how it all worked without having [Ulrich] here,” Ostrom said. “Wires were covered in a mass of electrical tape, and we had no clue what anything did. It took a lot of trial and error.”
The controller, meanwhile, was originally designed for a remote control helicopter, adding another challenge to the task at hand.
“We had to figure out how to get the signal into our radio receiver, and from there into the motor controller,” Ostrom said.
“If we don’t have enough power it doesn’t work, and if we have too much power it doesn’t work, so it’s kind of like a Goldilocks situation where it needs to be just right,” Cisecki said.
The end goal for the rover for this quarter, which wraps up on Monday, Nov. 16, is to be able to drive it down the hallway.
In the future, MacDonald said he hopes the robot can be built upon by more students.
“We’re going to eventually eliminate the remote control and replace it with a mini computer known as a Raspberry Pi, so the RC can be controlled with the Internet from a computer, which gets us closer to the NASA model, so we can control it from anywhere,” MacDonald said. “We’ll get some 360 degree cameras on it, and all that.”
MacDonald said he’s proud of the work his students have been able to achieve on the rover.
“These guys have been very self directed,” he said. “All I’ve done is help keep them on track. I did not give them any answers. They were totally on their own, and they are a success story of the current robotics program running now.”