AE Teams Sweep Space Design Competition
The competition requires teams to design a space vehicle to complete a specified task, focusing both on mission completion and on the total costs. This year’s competition asked entrants to design a vehicle to retrieve various artifacts from Apollo moon missions and return them from the moon to the Earth. Eligible Apollo mission artifacts were those from Apollo 12 through Apollo 17; artifacts from Apollo 11 were off-limits.
Advised by AE Prof. Victoria Coverstone, five Illinois teams competed, doing the work as their senior design projects. Three teams took home prizes. "Each team conceptualized a unique approach to completing the mission," Coverstone said. "Our students are innovative and technically savvy. It comes as no surprise that they swept the national competition. They are simply the best and I'm very proud of them."
The first prize, $2,500 from the AIAA Foundation and an opportunity to present the work at the recent AIAA Conference in San Diego, went to Team Lunatics, whose members were: leader Joel Nordness; members William Andrewski, Brianna Aubin, Seth Baynar, Josh Birnbaum, Abdul Rahman El Fouly, Michael Larsen and Charles Spellman.
Second prize and a $1,500 award went to Team Epimetheus, whose members were: leader Steven Moran; members Elizabeth Bozek, Peter Clark, Thomas Herges, Greg Sabina, Matthew Star, William Wheeler, and Robert Wilson.
Third prize and a $1,000 award went to Team ARO (Artifact Recovery Operation), whose members were: leader Aaron D'Souza; and members Ryne Beeson, Kelly Cole, Justin Heppe, Jonathan Huffman, Adam Molski, Christopher Re, and Zaki Sheikh.
AIAA set up the contest as though a mysterious entrepreneur was offering a $1 billion prize for teams to recover items ranging in value from 100 to 500 points. The first team to return items worth 250 points would be the winners. Among the items were a U.S. flag, a moon buggy antenna, Alan Shepard's golf ball, and other discarded items.
Aubin said her team's goal was to recover Shepard's golf ball because it was worth the most points at 500. Aubin's team designed a landing craft that would get to the moon to release a rover to search for the artifacts. The rover was designed to then come back to a return capsule, also carried on the landing craft. The capsule would then fire and make the trip back to Earth.
The technical side of the mission involved designing a lander, rover and return capsule, planning orbital trajectories and propulsion, and determining how to bring the capsule back and recover it. Teams also had to plan the business end of the project and find the means to pay for it. Aubin said her team cited grants, advertising, loans, investors and payments to use the rover for public outreach and experiments.
Said AE Department Head J. Craig Dutton of the teams' achievements, "Obviously, the AE Department is extremely proud of its students' remarkable performance in this competition. This speaks volumes to their creativity, hard work, and dedication. Congratulations to all these students and their advisor, Prof. Coverstone."