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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Rover Club tinkers for a tussle

Chris English, president of NIU’s Mars Rover club, spoke to a group of students during a Rover club meeting. The NIU Mars Rover Club meets at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays in the Engineering building, Room 254. (Courtesy of Chris English)

DeKALB – Gaining experience working on technology and engineering, competing in competitions and working with groups to build rovers are some of the things that are going on with NIU’s Mars Rover Team.

The NIU Mars Rover Club meets at 5:30 p.m. Fridays in the Engineering Building Room 254, where students of any major can gain the opportunity to learn about the design, fabrication, and integration of mechanical, electrical and computer systems along with how they can apply them to the operations of a rover.

Chris English, a mechanical engineering graduate student and the club president, described what a usual day in the Mars Rover club looks like.

“Yeah, so when we meet what we’ll normally do is kind of some general updates. So we have broken up into three sub-teams. We have mechanical, electrical / computer sciences and science task. And what we’ll do at the start of the meeting is give general announcements,” English said.

English said the club prepares for two large competitions, the Canadian International Rover Challenge (CIRC) and the University Rover Challenge (URC) which have four main objectives.

“The first one is autonomous traversal. So it’s a large course. I think one of them is a mile by mile with a bunch of different obstacles and other things that don’t work out,“ English said.

Another challenge is fully hands off where the rovers travel by GPS without anyone controlling them. 

“Another one is science  so it needs to be able to do readings, toil samples and other kinds of scientific instrumentation with the goal being ‘Hey, can we put a base here could we have frozen food here, could we have kind of setups here’,” English said.

There are two other tasks with fine element control. 

“That’s like plugging in a USB, flicking a switch, doing fine manipulations, that kind of stuff. And then finally the last one is lifting heavy objects,” English said.

The club will participate in the University Mars Rover Challenge held in May where students are challenged to build the next generation of Mars Rovers.

The goal of the Mars Rover Club and what they aim to achieve is to offer a unique environment where members can learn new things and build new skills. They give education and hands-on experience relating to the design, fabrication, and integration of mechanical, electrical, and computer systems, according to NIU Mars Rover.

The Mars Rover Club is free and any student can join. For membership students can visit the NIU Mars Rover website and fill out their interest form or reach out to Chris English via email at [email protected].

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