Martian rough riders

SC Robotics consists of various teams competing toward the creation of a Martian rover against other colleges

Saddleback College Robotics team. Photo: Lariat

The SC Robotics Team is a robotics club from Saddleback College. It is supported by Saddleback’s science faculty, which have allowed the club to blossom into what it is today. Supporters include Dr. Mitchell Haeri, Dr. Tony Huntley, Dr. James Rupka, Dr. Brit Highland, and Professor Glen Stevenson, to name a few.

SC Robotics is not a typical club. Not only does it deal with robotics, but the team has been working toward a significant achievement. That being the creation of a Mars rover.

SC Robotics is one of many teams that has joined The Mars Society University Rover Challenge.

“The Mars Society is an organization that promotes space exploration, most of Mars. So they go out and teach the people about the Martian environment, and they have this whole desert research station that is dedicated to simulate the Martian environment. Now they host this competition that essentially is mimicking what NASA and JPL are doing with their rovers.” Said Margarette Strong, the student leaders of SC Robotics. This event held by The Mars Society in Utah allows colleges to compete against each other to create the next generation of Martian rovers.

This feat is not easy, especially considering that the SC Robotics Team is from a community college. Despite this, SC Robotics is fighting tooth and nail to prove that they are all capable in their fields of expertise.

SC Robotics is separated into six different teams. There is the student team, the science team, the programming team, the mechanical team, the electrical team, and the business team. Together, these teams work toward the creation of a rover.

The student team is led by Margarette Strong, an engineering major with a focus in robotics. The student team’s purpose is to be the guide and overseer of the teams. They make sure that everyone can work and that tasks are continuously progressing.

“We all work collaboratively to ensure the other teams are working, so the other teams progress together.” Said Strong. Even with that responsibility, the student does not have any authority over the other teams other than making sure tasks are running smoothly.

Strong has worked to make each of the teams, and their leads are equal. No one has higher authority than each other so that the teams can work closer without any rifts.

Following the student, the team is the science team. It is led by Laura Sorgi Johann, a major in Astrobiology.

“The science team is in charge of the ‘science mission,’ which means finding evidence of extinct or extant life in various sites. Our task is to design a science apparatus to conduct soil analysis,” Said Laura. The science mission requires the team to work on experiments that can be feasibly possible for the rover.

Working closely with the mechanical team, they design apparatuses that allow for the experiments. Now that they have finished their design, programming works with the system so that it operates properly.

“We write the software and the firmware that runs on these devices that makes the rover do something productive.” Said Joshua Salzedo, the head of the programming team and a computer science major.

Joshua watches over the progress of his team, to make sure that they move at an efficient rate and that their coding will work with the system. His team works on the programming effort that will allow the rover to operate with the mechanical team’s efforts.

Everything has a programming system that allows the rover to operate. From the battery to the motors, everything has a system that was created by the programming team.

Creators of the technical aspects of the rover, the mechanical team, creates the physical rover. They operate along with all the teams since they will be the critical factors for the rover’s design and functionality.

“We do everything from designing the chassis, suspension system, the main drive tray to smaller system.” Said Brooks Blenker, the mechanical lead of the project. The mechanical team also does the assembly and manufacturing of the rover’s parts, whether they be 3d printed, CNC’ed, Laythed, or Milled.

“I’m mainly in charge of making sure the design go together well, making sure everything fits snug and nice and works.” Blenker did design most of the rover this year, but he relies on his team to build it. He can’t do all of it alone, and having a team allows the rover to have the best possibility for success.

“We don’t do a lot of the electrical work, that’s where the electrical team comes in.” Said Blenker. The original student lead of SC Robotics, Cory Hague, is the current leader of the electrical team since he is no longer a Saddleback student.

“Actuating all the motors to powering all the subsystems to making sure all the communications are routed to proper locations and sensors networks and all that. Making sure all those are behaving well. And animating the robot, they are the muscles of the robot,” said Hague. Hague is a physics major, and it was from the physics department at Saddleback that the program was even able to take-off the ground. Hague is a big reason that many of the leads are around today, and he still helps to make sure that his robotics team does the best they can.

The last team is the business team. Their purpose is invaluable and is a reason that SC Robotics runs as well as it does, and recruit new members for the club.

“So for recruiting, which is one part of our duty for the club. We work on recruiting for each of the different classes for our robotics team based on credentials for all the leads.” Said Marissa Binns, the business lead for SC Robotics and a business major. Recruiting students or getting students interested in the team or science is one of the goals of the business team.

The business team has students from a range of different majors, from business to physics to engineering. That kind of diversity is something that Binns believes to be an advantage for the team — allowing the business team to achieve its goals through different ideas and backgrounds.

Being the business team, they also watching the funding on the rover and how it is spent. They make sure all the paperwork and requirements that is need for the competitions is met. Another duty of the team is to produce a rover video that demonstrates the rover, and its abilities by March.

The entire SC Robotics team is full of many students with different majors, all working together for the final goal. They have worked hard so far for the competition, and plan to be ready in May for the challenge.