ONU students show replica of Mars rover

As a part of the Engineering Projects and Community Service (EPICS) program, Ohio Northern University students delivered Thursday an interactive, 1/4-scale replica of the Mars rover Curiosity to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum.

The replica was designed by engineering students at the university and was offered as an actual 1-credit hour class for students.

Armstrong Air and Space Museum Executive Director Chris Burton said the display will be a valuable educational tool that should draw a lot of interest at the museum.

“It will be an interactive exhibit where people will be able to operate part of it,” Burton said. “I think a lot of people will be very interested, especially children.”

Burton said exhibit area will be built at the museum to display the replica, but it also would be possible to remove the rover from its display for programs and presentations at the museum or other events.

ONU Engineering College Dean Eric Baumgartner said the EPICS program was valuable both to students and the community.

“I was contacted by Chris Burton and he talked about wanting to expand the museum from the moon to Mars,” Baumgartner said. “They wanted a replica of the Mars rover and the students brought the information back and went to work.”

Baumgartner said the replica is exactly one-fourth the size of the actual rover and that the mobility system of the prototype is exact to Curiosity.

The mast on the replica is close to exact but does not contain as many of the scientific instruments of the actual Curiosity. The robotic arm is the only part of the replica model that is mock, or inoperable.

The students demonstrated the replica easily climbing over rocks that were placed on the floor. The replica has two controllers, one that drives the model and one that operates the mast with the camera.

Team members of the project were all students, including Mike Sunyak, Kurt Meyer, Andy Woodruff, Liz Spingola, Rebekah Douglass, Kathryn Skobrak and Alec Fleming.

The crew received the computer-aided drawing from the JPL jet propulsion laboratory and made their own computer-aided drawing based on the specs of the original project.

“We wanted to scale it down to the size of a common entry door so it could be easily moved,” project manager Spingola said. “We were very happy with the way it turned out.”

Spingola said she thinks the replica will be a valuable learning tool. Spingola, is pursuing an engineering education degree at ONU, said she would like to implement this type of learning in the classroom.

“I think it will be an important tool in getting younger kids excited about science and engineering,” Spingola said. “It is very important to get students more excited about things.”