Indian Team Wins System Safety Award in NASA Competition

Students From NMIMS Mukesh Patel School of Technology Wins

"System Safety"

Award in

First NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge - 2014


Team Technovators
Left side : Vivek Maurya , Prof. Sawankumar Naik, Rushali Jaiswal , Karan Shah, Vinay Singh, Viranch Shah, Aseem Prakash.

 Indian Space Station is proud to present another team from India which won an award in the just concluded NASA's first human exploration rover challenge - 2014. A group of students from SVKM-Narsee Monjee Institute-Mukesh Patel School of Tech. Mgt. & Eng., Mumbai, India have won a prestigious award under the category of "System Safety" in 2014. ISS team member, Vasantha Kumar, had an opportunity to talk to one of their team member, Vivek Maurya, to discuss about their achievements and the path to success.

 Q1. What is the name of your team?
We call ourselves as Team Technovators, we are going with the same name since past 5 years.

 Q2. Who is the main person who inspired the students to participate in this competition?
Our Faculty mentor Prof. Sawankuamar Naik and our Ex-Dean Dr. D.J. Shah inspired us in the beginning when we very first participated at a NASA Event. i.e. The Great Moonbuggy Race in Year 2010.

Q3. How many people were there in the team and how team was organized to solve various challenging problems


 Q4. Is your college participating for the first time in any NASA conducted competition?
No, we have been participating since last 5 years at various NASA Competitions. i.e.


 Q5. Please summarize the problem statement for this competition briefly
The problem statement for this competition is engineering design challenge that will focus on NASA’s current plans to explore planets, moons, asteroids and comets -- all members of the solar system family. The new NASA Rover Challenge (formerly NASA Great Moonbuggy Race) was held from April 10-12, 2014, at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center. The challenge focused on designing, constructing and testing technologies for mobility devices to perform in these different environments, and it will provide valuable experiences that engage students in the technologies and concepts that will be needed in future exploration missions.

Rovers had to be human-powered and carry two students, one female and one male, over a half-mile obstacle course of simulated extraterrestrial terrain of craters, boulders, ridges, inclines, crevasses and ruts.

Each student team of six members were responsible for building the own rover, and the two course drivers must be chosen from the team.

As a part of the challenge, and before traversing the course, unassembled rover entries must be carried by the drivers to the course starting line with the unassembled components contained in a volume of 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet (dimension requirements). At the starting line, the entries was assembled, readied for racing, and evaluated for safety. Assembly occurred one time prior to the first course run.

Each team is permitted two runs of the course, and the shortest course time was added to the assembly time for the final total event time.

 Q6. Any unique approach/innovation/interesting method was implemented or lessons from the previous participation being used here (if any experience with previous competitions similar in nature)?
As the main challenge this year for us was to change the entire thinking process due the rules changes compared to previous year. The main technical challenge was to design non-pneumatic tyres and a flexible design, which would easily traverse the course.

Our main highlight for this year was our Steering System, Suspension, Tyres & Telemetry:

Steering of the system plays an important role when there are sharp turning radius and turns. Taking care about it, we have used the tilt steering mechanism, which gives the rider much better control while cornering. The tilt steering mechanism allows selection of the steering wheel position (in the vertical direction) to match the driver’s driving posture. In this very simple mechanism translates the tilt angle into a steering angle whereby the vehicle changes direction. The tilt angle is directly proportional to the degree of steering. The steering mechanism is fully customized and fabricated by us keeping in mind the racetrack.

The steering in the front also acts as a suspension. The front steering assembly is made in such a manner that, in case of a crater the hinges tilts the entire assembly, making sure the other side of the wheel balances it.

We manufactured our own tyres to comply with the rules. The goal for tyres was to keep the drivetrain smooth. So, we took 4mm thick PVC pipes and cut it into pieces of 30 mm long. These pipes pieces were tightly arranges on the circumference of the Rim. The rubber tyres were placed outside these PVC Pipes and tied with tie-rods.                         

Rover Testing in the streets of Mumbai

The Telemetry System is an integral part of our Rover. It helps us focus on the shortcoming and also supports and guides us, to prevent damage to the vehicle and to ensure higher safety of drivers.

The telemetry system is divided into 2 parts:

  • The Real Time Sensor monitoring system
  • The Real Time video and 2 way audio system

These systems are intentionally kept separate from each other, to ensure that even if anyone system fails, the performance of the other is not affected.

 Q7. Who are all the faculty members who helped in terms of technical feedback to the team?
Our Faculty Mentor Prof. Sawankumar Naik helped us with technical feedback at various stages, he being from the Mechanical Background.

Our Dean Dr. S. Y. Mhaiskar & College Mentor Dr. J.P. Gandhi provided us with all the support we needed to execute this project.

 Q8. What was the estimated cost and final actual cost of this project and who funded it?                 

Estimated ($) Actual Cost ($)      
 US $1,856  US$2,060  Excess of US$ 204 was covered from the 20% reserve amount. 


 Q9. What was the toughest part of this competition and what was your team approach to solve it?
The major problem was the Safety Issues, which we suffered during testing the Rover. There were many modifications done after manufacturing process, troubleshooting the problem needed feedback from various faculties in colleges and our mentor. There were many trial runs, which we carried out before the competition.

Q11. Your team has the prize under the category of “System Safety” for exemplifying best safety practices. Please tell us more about it and what are was those unique best practises that made your team to win this award.
The planning of the report took 2 weeks, and compiling took few hours. The report was kept simple and basic trying to target important points into consideration such as: System Design Process, Safety in Design Principal, Design Considerations, System Safety Goals & Requirements, System Safety Assessment & Risk Mitigation.


Team at the award ceremony

The advantage of the report was, that it analyzed the Safety issues with its mitigation strategies with multiple options such as Elimination, Substitution, Protect, Administration, and Mechanical Aid in a tabular format, which was easy to understand.

Q12. Please give us list of some hardware and software tools (as detailed as possible) used for your design so that other students could make use of these tools for their own projects.

  •     For designing process we used: AutoCAD
  •     For simulating we used: Soildworks®
  •     For stress analysis we used: ANSYS®
  •     Project Management tool that we used was: Microsoft Project 2010

Things, which we learned in the process:

  • Testing, Testing & more of Testing: During planning stage, keep ample amount of time for testing and modifications.
  • Theoretical v/s Practical Knowledge: To be fully confident on a system or machine, we should rely on both. Both work hand in hand.
  • Balance of Stream: We learnt to balance the two streams of engineering and learnt that no specialization in engineering is complete without understanding as to how we as engineers can incorporate our finding in all streams.
  • Thinking out of the Box: There were phases when we couldn’t come up with any solution. Lateral thinking really helps when not solution around.




Vasantha Kumar

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