Capstone team designs critical planetary rover component for NASA

Dec 22, 2022
Seniors with their capstone project

Seven Florida Polytechnic University seniors stand with their capstone project of designing an updated shoulder for a marsupial planetary rover. From left, the students are Erika Lopez, Demetreas Medina, Stephen Silman, Pearson Harris, Joshua Meador, Jacob Strayer, and Ramnik Bharath. Not pictured are team members Jacob Olinger, Rory O’Connor, and Noble Frazier.

A senior capstone design team at Florida Polytechnic University worked at a lightning speed throughout the fall semester to design and build an updated shoulder for a marsupial planetary rover.

The 10-member team worked closely with the Florida Space Institute as it progressed through the super capstone project, which is compressed into a single semester rather than an entire academic year.

“The idea is that they send this rover to Mars or the moon or whichever rocky planet they want, and it comes down off a rocket or another vehicle drops it off,” said Pearson Harris, a senior majoring in electrical engineering with a concentration in renewable energy. “It’s supposed to scoop up dirt and rocks, and we developed the shoulder for the boom arm that’s able to lift more mass.”

Erika Lopez, a senior majoring in computer science, worked on creating the shoulder’s robot operating system (ROS), which allows for easy communication of information from the robot shoulder’s sensors to a control system.

“Our work focused on the shoulder compartment, and in the future the arm, wheels, and drum will be added. That’s when the ROS will be really important,” she said. 

Computer science senior Ramnik Bharath worked on building the front-end application for the project, which allows a person to control the rover.

“We all worked on individual parts that combined into a bigger picture,” Bharath said. 

The result allowed the students to graduate with the satisfaction of completing a strong project that’s ready to hand off to the next group of motivated capstone students.

“I think it turned out really great. We were able to get the foundation of the entire project done for future teams,” Lopez said. “I would say this is the best experience I’ve had for future work through my four years of college.”


Lydia Guzmán
Director of Communications