View Full Version : How do you think this relates to space exploration?
01-09-2008, 09:52 AM
Last year, the MC at the first contest in Richmond Virginia revealed that NASA creates these games with robotic space exploration missions in mind, ie.. Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, as well as the Stardust comet probe. What future missions or tasks do you see in this contest?
01-09-2008, 10:13 AM
One of the dilemmas that NASA has had to deal with is how to efficiently transport astronauts from a crippled craft to a rescue vehicle, should the need arise, via a sphere in which the person would get in, be transported to the rescue vehicle and get out. Maybe the ball is the transport vehicle...:cool:
01-09-2008, 10:32 AM
It gives "the space race" an entirely different meaning ... :)
01-09-2008, 10:50 AM
We're building robots to be able to lift large heavy balls over and on top a high structure as quick as possible. Sounds like something that could come up in space exploration. I mean it's not direct, but FIRST doesn't like to theme their games with anything specific...FIRST has it's own theme in itself.
01-09-2008, 12:31 PM
Just the fact that IR sensors, autonomoous modes, gyros, proximity sensors and all the programming that goes along with it leads to many NASA applications. Not too mention the engineering and problem solving skills that are being developed by the students are invaluable.
01-09-2008, 12:54 PM
maybe to lift something heavy and put it on or in something unreachable to us.
01-09-2008, 12:58 PM
Not trying to create a manned versus unmanned debate here ....
Due to the physical constraints of the universe... Robots are much more suited for space exploration than humans are.
Deep space is extremely hostile to people and it takes a relatively long time for signals to go from here to there. Robots can endure environments and periods of time that humans cannot. This is all true even in the relatively close confines of our own solar system.
Space is great for autonomous and hybrid controlled robots.
How about the deep blue oceans? Tell a robot - "go way deep, spend a month traveling around the bottom, look around, do some science, and come back with a trove of information"
Maybe it will come back with how life exists 2 miles down in the darkness that will lead to new discoveries in how to do "synthetic reduction" so we can capture solar radiation and store it as a safe stable oil.
Maybe ............................ what ?
There are some tendencies that are spaceflight specific. The concept of designing with very strict form factor constraints is realistic (there is only so much space in the rocket for your payload). Weight is also very constrained in spaceflight.
While the very literal applications you all are finding may exist I think that if FIRST was meant to be applied that literally to a specific mission and mission objective there would be a stronger cultural emphasis on college students etc eventually moving into projects such as the lunar xprize.
It is unlikely that FIRST is attempting to give you experience in designing something that can be flight hardened and sent to Mars for mission x y or z and that's a gift. It can be a hard thing to hear, most of us are engineers, in our minds if it isn't "applied" it is rare that it is "worthwhile," but there are things FIRST teaches you that probably so much more relevant to NASA than how to lift a trackball.
Missions are planned far in advance. A lot of current prototyping research (which is effectively what a FIRST season is: a prototyping cycle) is scheduled to be launched in about 2017-2020 (I'm using the example of moon stuff for the lunar base). Most people are not employed by NASA until they have finished a bachelor's degree (and in many cases they require more.) That means that if a high school freshman begins work on something now, s/he could be employed by NASA in approximately 8 years to prototype hardware for a mission that will launch 10 years from that time. That means NASA would have to plan out what mission they want to launch nearly 20 years from now to have your lessons that are being designed right now have that sort of direct impact.
Predicting the future 20 years in advance isn't an easy hobby. Any number of old bad science fiction movies can tell you that. To force you into a specific application this far in advance would be foolish.
FIRST is teaching you something better: how to take an impossible challenge on an absurd time line with not enough money and to achieve anyway. That has been a relevant skill set for hundreds of years and is likely to continue to be relevant easily through the rest of your lives. NASA specializes in taking on the impossible (I would put in the joke "as only NASA can" but I fear I would suffer a horrible death at the hands of some excellent NASA employee who has heard those words one too many times) so having a steady stream of employees ready to face challenges like that before breakfast is a dream come true.
There is another important thing FIRST teaches you that NASA (and other employers) appreciate: scientific/engineering work in a team. I personally believe the era of the great single genius is over. Many people disagree with me but here is my reasoning: logically speaking research is more expensive, more complex, and so much is known about our world that by the time a single person was educated properly on all of it they would probably be nearly ready to retire. On a more practical level when most people are asked to name a single great genius of a scientist they name somebody in the 1940's or earlier (Einstein, Edison, Faraday, Tesla...) Famous "big" research and progress is now made in large groups (NASA, Google, Al Gore's little global warming squad...)
Somehow our education system currently doesn't quite express that. Too many extremely bright students do not feel they need group work skills because they are positive they are smarter than the rest of the group. In many cases FIRST helps correct this mistake. I'm sure some kid who thinks s/he is clever will PM me and inform me that s/he runs the entire team singlehandedly but that is missing the point. At some point most students will probably have to learn to work in a group no matter how inherently brilliant [they believe] they might be. FIRST is a very good place to learn. If you want to ignore the lesson that's your own problem.
This tendency to prepare for the abstract over the concrete is, when you think about it, better for you (the students) too. If NASA trained you for a specific mission 20 years before it happened and then you weren't hired for that mission or the mission budget was cut where would you be? Instead with this system you gain a valuable skill set which is perfect for NASA but also can make you employable by other employers.
So yes: robotic exploration vehicles must lift things, move things, drive, communicate, and sense. The FIRST robots do that, but I think to look at the actual physical game pieces as the closest analogue to work at NASA is missing a lot of more important lessons that are being presented.
01-09-2008, 02:32 PM
Just shows you how far ahead they plan these missions.
01-09-2008, 03:32 PM
Great answer Katy. I'm not suggesting anything mission specific, just trying to throw out a thought provoking question and seeing what returns...
01-09-2008, 07:28 PM
To remember the on and off switch...or...an automatic on and off switch...<grin>
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