We are Yonder Dynamics, a multidisciplinary student robotics organization at UC San Diego. We compete annually in an international competition called the University Rover Challenge, in which teams from a number of countries design and build an autonomous Mars rover to perform four tasks: Extreme Retrieval & Delivery, Equipment Servicing, Science Cache, and Autonomous Traversal. Last year, in our first year in competition, we became the first team from UCSD to make it to the final round. With your support in funding, we aim to build a rover that will take us to the top ten teams this year.
We design and manufacture all aspects of the Mars rover, and parts and software are not cheap, even with our generous sponsors. By donating to Yonder Dynamics, you are supporting the next generation of engineers and scientists with an unique hands-on learning experience.
Yonder Dynamics was first conceived by two UC San Diego undergraduates, Kirk Hutchison and Alex Smith. After discovering their joint passion for space exploration and autonomous navigation, the two decided to form their own student organization dedicated to building a fully autonomous Mars rover. In late fall 2016, the team, which had expanded to about 40 members, decided to register for the University Rover Challenge. The goal back then was simply to build a prototype by March for the Critical Design Review, a comprehensive report and video submission that would determine if registered teams could move ahead to the final round of the competition in Utah (Watch our Critical Design Review video here).
Little did we know that we would not only be finalists but become 29th in the world. Our first year in competition was a series of trials, but we emerged from it with a lot of lessons learned. (For a more detailed, first-hand account of our days in competition, read our blog post.)
Yonder Dynamics today is a team of almost 100 members from a variety of fields, including mechanical engineering, computer science, biology, earth sciences, electrical engineering, speculative design, and more. These members are divided into five main sub-teams: Motions (Mechanical), Electrical, Software, Science, and Business. Yonder's philosophy is "People First", meaning we believe strongly in developing each of our members as individuals. We're all united by one thing—our passion for robotics and space.
Building on what we've learned from last year, we're preparing to construct a new rover that will get us farther in the competition.
CHASSIS: The chassis for Yonder Dynamic's 2018 URC rover is the keystone for systems integration this year. With a focus on cutting weight by using lightweight composites in conjunction with aluminum, Chassis subteam is designing a novel chassis that will incorporate automotive engineering methods and triangulation.
ARM: This year’s design will have 2 linear actuators, a motor for the base, and a Dynamixel servo for the hand. Arm subteam will use aluminum (T6 6061) in the final design due to its workability. For the hand attachment, we will proceed with rapid prototyping using 3D printing parts.
DRIVE: Drive design this year is a six wheel drive system based on the rocker-bogie mechanism favored by NASA. The drive system will not need a differential bar to function, making it more easily manufactured. On each side, the two front wheels are connected by a bar, while the bar is connected to the chassis by two swinging bars.
SCIENCE - Science Payload aims to maximize science capability both on rover and in the laboratory. Our sample carousel sorts soil by grain size, then measures the pH of the soil, as well as soil moisture and temperature. In the laboratory portion, we will deploy our custom Raman spectrometer and life test.
COMPOSITES: We aim to incorporate sandwich composites in the chassis to reduce weight and use a 3D printed honeycomb matrix for the arm subsystem. In addition, composites will be used for non-load bearing pieces, such as the communications tower and chassis cover. In order to accomplish this, we will manufacture designs by hand utilizing vacuum-bagging methods, creating 2-part epoxy and hardener, and making molds out of foam, plastics, wood, and aluminum.
3D: We currently are operating with two Robo 3D R1+, one Qidi tech II, and a Printrbot Simple. Most of our parts are created with ABS filament at 25% fill density and 4 perimeters to ensure high strength synergized with low material cost. We are also experimenting with different kinds of filaments. We have recent success with TPU/flexible Filament that will be incorporated with the hand design. PETG filament will be employed instead of PLA for early design stage parts. We are in the stages of using polycarbonate infused filament that offers extremely high tensile strength and durability.
ELECTRICAL: Electrical subteam is creating a power budget, selecting motors and motor drivers, and designing a printed circuit board, or PCB, for our electronics to mount onto our microcontroller. We currently are testing frequencies (900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz) to transmit our telemetry, controls, and video feed, as well as choosing types of antennas and radios to use.
SOFTWARE: For the competition, this rover will able to navigate to provided GPS points using pathfinding algorithms and obstacle avoidance via our RealSense Stereo camera. The rover will then explore the area to find the waypoint marker. We use extended kalman filters to integrate visual odometry, IMU, and GPS to a high enough precision to navigate difficult terrain. Additionally, we have designed a graphical user interface that provide the vitals (position, orientation, power level, and atmospheric conditions) of our rover at all times.
OUR 2017-2018 TIMELINE
OUR KICKSTARTER TIERS
The competition features four tasks.
1. Science Cache: The rover collects soil samples at selected sites, evaluates the samples with onboard instruments, and then stores at least one sample for further experiments. Samples are analyzed for the likelihood of supporting microbial life.
2. Extreme Retrieval and Delivery: The rover navigates through a range of terrain types in order to pick up objects, such as small tools and specific rocks, and deliver them to “astronauts” at designated locations.
3. Equipment Servicing: The rover delivers a cached sample to a lander before performing lander maintenance.
4. Autonomous Traversal: The rover travels autonomously between designated points across moderately difficult terrain.
You can also find out more about the competition here.
YONDER IN THE NEWS
Last year, our team was featured on local TV channel ABC10news, as well as UC San Diego's school-wide email newsletter, This Week@UC San Diego.
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS
Risks and challenges
The University Rover Challenge has several competitive milestones coming up, such as the Systems Acceptance Review in early March. This review determines if we will go to the finals in Utah. Competition is steep, considering more than half the teams will be cut.
Last year, our first year competing, we completed and then barely passed this milestone with a prototype of the rover. With knowledge and experience from the previous competition, this year we aim to have a completed system that is able to demonstrate the necessary tasks by March.
Should we not make it past the Systems Acceptance Review stage and are not able to compete in the final round of the competition, we will still finish construction and testing of our rover. Kickstarter rewards will also still be delivered.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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