Last year, the Colorado School of Mines placed second in the nation in an annual NASA competition that challenged teams to develop a plan for extracting water from Mars. This enormous achievement has inspired Mines to increase its efforts, forming not one, but three student competition teams and one senior design team to attempt to accomplish what last year’s team fell just short of.
This style of competition, known as the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL), is similar to that of the EPICS (Engineering Design) courses at Mines; student teams are provided with a defined problem and then given the chance to come up with a creative and efficient solution.
Last year’s team did just that when it was given exceptionally high marks for having the lightest system of all the teams, as well as being only one of two teams to actually accomplish what they had been tasked with doing—collecting water. With the bar already set high, each of the four RASC-AL team leads is confident in their team’s abilities and skills to make the most out of the competition.
“Our team’s engineers are the most driven, high-caliber, and intensely passionate about space I’ve ever worked with. It’s a thrill to see them in action,” said Adam Marcinkowski, who heads the ‘Lunar Polar Sample Return’ themed team. All of the team leads are confident that they can translate the huge pool of talent at their disposal into results.
“We are going to make it past the first round of cuts, and the second, and we are going to the competition this summer,” said Matt Foutch, the team lead for the ‘Artificial Gravity Reusable Crewed Deep Space Transport’ theme. The size of teams varies considerably, with the smallest being a handful of senior design members, to the largest consisting of nearly two-dozen members. Marcinkowski noted that larger teams can often tackle problems by shear force and man power
“Our team is 23 engineers strong, so we can put in over 60 hours of work on this project per week,” explained Marcinkowski. Experience is also a factor that seems to vary between the teams. Some have an all-senior lineup while others harness a newcomer majority, which will not stop them from being competitive.
“We’re a small group of inexperienced, but highly motivated members,” said Foutch. “All except for two are freshmen, but that won’t stop us from going as far as we can in this competition.” As of now, the competition is still in its early stages but is beginning to ramp up quickly. All teams have until Jan. 21 to submit their abstracts, at which point the first round of cuts will take place.
The second round of cuts will take place after mid-project reviews are submitted on Apr. 1. All teams that make it past these second cuts will then meet in Cocoa Beach, Florida in June, for the final stage of the 2018 RASC-AL competition. There is no doubt that Mines will be well-represented among the teams attending with a better shot than ever at attaining that first place victory.