Mars Rover: From class project to student club

Picus Martius didn’t start as a club.

The NIU Mars Rover team began in 2016 as a senior design project. Five students worked together to develop the first Picus Martius, a project that landed them first place in the mechanical engineering division and the Engineering and Technology Alumni Society’s (ETAS) Engineering Excellence Award on the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s Senior Design Day. The team also took their design to national competition and began garnering interest from other engineering students.

“My initial interest was provoked because of how multifaceted a project like this is,” said club secretary Mike Hood. “Instead of concentrating on some small aspect of a single system to work on, this project forces the designer to come up with solutions to many different small problems at once. This is not only more challenging but also more entertaining and rewarding in my eyes.”

The fledgling club is a great fit for mechanical, electrical and industrial engineering students. It gives students the opportunity to take on responsibility, apply classroom knowledge and be proactive in the design stages of the rover. Many diverse types of educational backgrounds are required to tackle the challenges the team faces, and the club is open to students of all majors in the university – from finance majors who can help with the challenges of budgeting to geology majors who can offer input on the different terrain challenges the rover might face.

“Our club’s main goal is to compete at the University Rover Challenge in Utah next summer,” Hood said. “Involvement in university events raising awareness of STEM fields is another priority. Personally, I want to learn as much as I can from this challenge and prove to myself that I can succeed in something as difficult as this.”

Picus Martius will be Northern Illinois University’s first registered submission in the University Rover Challenge. To get involved or learn more, email Mike Hood at Z1808859@students.niu.edu.

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