2015 Yerkes Summer Institute — Mission to Mars: Engineering Design Process

The Yerkes Summer Institute (YSI) is a week long, residential, science immersion experience held at the historic Yerkes Observatory in William Bay, Wisconsin.

In YSI 2015, we applied the Engineering Design Process (EDP) to overcome challenges encountered in a mission to Mars. The exploration is broken down into three labs: robotic manipulation, extraterrestrial navigation and launching/landing.


Yerkes Summer Institute

2015 Yerkes Summer Institute: students, instructors and organizers.


Robotic Manipulation Day Lab: the students built an robotic arm for the test Mars rover and prepared for a final mystery challenge by testing the effect of motor power, gear ratio and angular displacement on robotic arm performance. (The challenge uses Lego Mindstorm and a graphical programming interface.)


Robotic Manipulation extension: after three days of hard work and creativity, the robotics team presents an entirely remotely controlled Mars rover capable of collecting rock samples, unloading payload and navigating the mock Mars terrain. They successfully achieved their goal of transporting 500g of rocks in 10 minutes from a sample site 3 meters from the rocket base.


Extraterrestrial Navigation Day Lab: the students built a test Mars rover to explore the effects of gear ratio, wheel size and battery configurations.


Extraterrestrial Navigation Extension: The navigation team worked to build a rover capable of carrying their engineering notebook up a steep hill.


Launching/Landing Day Lab: the students built miniature trebuchets and test for the effects of arm length ratio and counterweights on the angular velocity and the projection angle. They aim to understand their product so they can optimize the performance with respect to a final mystery task.


Launching/Landing: giant torsion trebuchet that converts the potential energy stored in the elastic band to kinetic energy of the projectile.


Measuring Gravity with Pressurized Rocket: we measured the Earth’s gravity by taking long exposure pictures of a flashing LED on board of a pressurized rocket.


Nighttime Observing: at night, it’s time to explore stars, constellations and planets with our own eyes. With the 24 inch telescope in the observatory dome, the students also designed their own observing plan, picking the objects of interest and taking into account all constraints.


After three days of work, the robotics team members demonstrate their Mars rover in front of their families and friends. They tell a story of true team work and dedication.


The robotics lab instructors: Chen He Heinrich (right) is the lead instructor of the 2015 Yerkes Summer Institute and Zoheyr Doctor (left) is the next year’s lead instructor! Go Zoheyr!!


Robotics team having fun! 🙂