The Michigan Engineer News Center

Aerospace Engineering Prof. James W. Cutler help FIRST LEGO team build solar oven

5th grade student from Gladstone FIRST LEGO League Robotics Team gets help with their solar oven from Aerospace Prof. James W. Cutler| Short Read
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IMAGE:  FIRST LEGO Team from Gladstone, MI inspect their solar oven

Every year, FIRST Robotics organizes a competition for 4th and 5th graders from around the globe to compete in a robotics and science competition. In addition to making a robot entirely out of LEGOs, this year’s teams are tasked with coming up with a problem associated with prolonged human space travel and finding an innovative solution to that problem.

The Galaxy Bots, FIRST LEGO League team #27434 from Gladstone, MI, were one of the many local teams to accept these challenges. In addition to building their robot, the team came up with a way to heat up food/water in space in a way that doesn’t use extra power. Their solution was a solar oven.

After winning their regional qualifier, Travis Beauchamp, coach of Gladstone FIRST LEGO League Robotics Team reached out to the UM’s Department of Aerospace Engineering to try and get some additional advice on improvements for their solar oven.

Since this year’s competition topic was space, the team contacted Aerospace Prof. Jamie Cutler, CubeSat pioneer and space systems expert. After listening to the Galaxy Bots’ description of their problem and their solution, Prof. Cutler congratulated the team on their work and he provided improvements and suggestions to the team’s design: insulating the corners of their oven, adding lenses to the front to better focus the sunlight entering the box, and changing the material to something strong and lighter. Before the state competition, the team was able to implement the insulation and lenses Prof. Cutler recommended.

At the state competition, the team placed an impressive 14th of the 60 teams that entered the competition. Congratulations to the Gladstone FIRST LEGO League Robotics Team on their performance!

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