This year, unlike ever before in Candor, a team has been put together to attempt the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge set to happen in Huntsville, Alabama in April 2024. This competition has been happening every year since 1994, challenging students to think critically and innovate.
The team consisting of 8 members, headed by the Student Team Lead, Shreya Prakash (Grade 10), includes the Student Safety Officer, Praneel Thanneeru (Grade 10), the Head of Technical Implementation, Sree Sastha Ramesh (IBDP 1), the Head of Design, Ria Badani (Grade 9), the Head of Stem Engagement, Varun Anand (Grade 10), the Head of Administration, Srikar Dasamandam (IBDP 1), Head of Construction, Arman Behera (IBDP 1), and the Head of Engineering, Rishi Vinay Reddy (A Level). Every member of this team has brought something special to the table, be it mechanical expertise, or the ebullience that brings everyone to life. The team has stayed back in school on countless days, worked tireless nights, and has even been up till 4 in the morning on school days to submit their deliverables. Through this veiled hard work and perseverance that none of us see, Team S.P.E.C.T.R.A has done a marvellous job to get where they are today.
The NASA HERC inspires every participant to think, get creative, and innovate. It not only educates one in terms of STEM aspects but also acts as a project of pride to every student who undertakes it. In this year-round competition, the participants have to design and construct a rover which will have to pass through several tests and obstacles and carry out certain tasks that simulate the harsh Martian terrain. This competition challenges students to think in ways that no educational institute could stimulate.
In preparation for the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, the team has already undergone a rigorous Design Review Presentation. They presented their proposed rover design, going to great length and detail, including discussing sub-systems such as the Rack & Pinion Steering System, the McPherson Suspension system, etc to talking about the Failure Modes and Effects Analysis, and Personnel Hazard Analysis Reports. The team’s attention to detail, innovative solutions, and thorough understanding of the design process, combined with the expected finesse in administration aspects such as the timeline, funding updates, and budget, resulted in the team receiving positive feedback with a lot of insights, that have helped the team step up the design aspect to enhance the rover’s performance.
With the Design Review Presentation behind them, the team is focused on the next phase of the competition: the Operational Readiness Review Report, Stem Engagement Report, and then the event in Huntsville, scheduled for April 2024. This event will bring together teams from around the world to put their rovers to the test in a series of challenging obstacles that simulate the terrain of other planets. The team is eager to demonstrate the capabilities of the rover and compete against other innovative designs. The team has also taken initiative to host various stem engagement workshops leading from DNA extraction to Hydro Rocketry demonstrating passions towards stem and encouraging learning in students of multiple age groups. These stem engagement workshops have been a massive blast, and the team hopes to continue in endeavors like this. The team has also indulged in an industrial visit, with a space tech manufacturing company that supplies to NASA and ISRO Avasarala Technologies Limited, and have gained invaluable knowledge through such enlightening experiences. This visit truly expanded the horizon of knowledge of the students of Team S.P.E.C.T.R.A as they got an opportunity to learn about CNC cutting, lathe machines, heat pipes in satellites, satellite engines, chemical electrolysis etc. A few of these components developed by Avasarala can be seen on the Chandrayaan 3 satellite. These types of experiences were to be found nowhere else and will always be etched in the hearts of the students.
With diverse experiences, and ever-expanding learnings, the team has now completed the design of the rover and is in the fabrication process of the rover, and as they prepare for the upcoming competition, they are grateful for the support of the school, parents, and their advisor Mr.Sathesh, who has helped them along the way and made this journey possible.
The team is proud of their accomplishments so far, and they look forward to representing Candor International School in Huntsville. With determination and teamwork, they are ready to take on the challenge and reach for the stars.