Seen from outside, Enceladus appears to be like most of its sibling moons: cold, icy and inhospitable. But under that forbidding exterior may exist an ocean that is 10 km deep. We built a robot that will explore icy planets like Enceladus in the hope of finding signs of life in space.
What it does
Enceladus explores its environment and drills holes to take sample data.
How we built it
The 4 wheels: We used bottoms of coffee cups and we glued strips of foam onto the wheels to give them grip. We glued a motor to each of the wheels. The platform: We used a pizza box and popsicle sticks. The arm: We used a coffee cup, popsicle sticks, a motor to make the drill bit spin and a servo. We 3-D printed the drill bit. We included an ultrasound sensor to detect obstacles. We controlled the rover with an arduino.
Challenges we ran into
1) Some motors failed to work 2) Had to adapt the design because of limited resources 3) Source of power 4) Time - we wanted to connect the arduino to a raspberry pi with ROS but we ran out of time. One of our team members learned about ROS and downloaded it on a raspberry pi. Some team members wrote a python script to make the arduino and the raspberry pi communicate. The idea was to collect data from an ultrasound sensor, write it to a file using a python script and use that file with ROS.
We built a working rover that can go forward and drill holes. The drill bit spins and the arm goes up and down using a mechanism similar to an oil rig with 180 degrees of rotation.
What we learned
Some of our team members learned how to use an arduino and a raspberry pi. We all learned how to communicate effectively with people we've just met.
What's next for Enceladus
Right now, Enceladus can drill holes. The next step would be to modify the rover so that it can take ice cores and collect them to analyze them later on.