University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of EngineeringSpring/Summer 2013
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Emerging Engineers



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Students steer UNL car teams to achievements

Whether speeding across pavement in a racecar or climbing muddy steeps in an offroad vehicle, Nebraska Engineering students found success in 2013 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competitions. Both teams improved on their past records and, though they sacrificed many hours of sleep and free time, team members gained experience to make them stand out in consideration by future employers.

The UNL teams spend months designing and building their vehicles according to precise guidelines, and apply testing and research in hopes to give their entries an edge in competitions. Along with enhancing their technical skills, students on the SAE teams also grow their “people skills” including teamwork and leadership.

In a major event at Western Washington University in May, the UNL Baja team finished third overall by earning second place in the endurance race and first in the acceleration event. Team captain Zach Blackford, a mechanical engineering student, said UNL entered two vehicles in the competition, and the freshmen car was the acceleration winner with a time of 5.58 seconds.

“In Washington we scored in the top ten for almost every event, and we were in the top ten for design at both competitions—very difficult for a small team, “Blackford said.

Weeks later, at the international Baja SAE championship in upstate New York, the UNL entry broke a suspension component.

UNL’s Formula SAE team rose in the standings of the 2013 international Formula SAE competition that brought approximately 80 teams and more than 1,000 students and participants to Lincoln in June. The Husker Motorsports team placed 22nd in Cost Presentation, 25th in Design Presentation, 48th in Business Presentation, 10th in Acceleration, 39th in Skid Pad events, 38th in Autocross and DNF in Endurance events, due to a loose component on the vehicle in the last lap.

Electrical engineering graduate student Chris Wilson led the UNL Formula SAE team, with many Nebraska Engineering students adding expertise. Both teams thank their sponsors and fans, and look forward to competing in 2014.


UNL rover competes at NASA in RASC-AL Robo Opsrover and kid photo

If you think parallel parking a car is difficult, try navigating a robotic vehicle through an obstacle course when you’re 900 miles away from the scene. As NASA guides rovers to remotely conduct scientific research on other planets, Nebraska Engineering attempted a version of that work in June.

UNL was one of eight teams chosen for the 2013 RASC-AL Exploration Robo-Ops Competition, an engineering challenge sponsored by NASA and organized by the National Institute of Aerospace.

The selected teams built planetary rover prototypes to compete in “the Rock Yard” at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. UNL’s “Rover of the Corn” faced teams including Arizona State University, the University of Maryland and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Each team, comprised of graduate and undergraduate students, received $10,000 to fund rover development, materials, testing equipment, hardware and software.

After months of building and refining the rover, UNL team leader Joe Bartels traveled with teammate Eric Markvicka to Houston, while teammate Tom Frederick led “mission control” tasks back in Prof. Shane Farritor’s robotics lab at UNL’s Scott Engineering Center. According to the competition rules, each rover must be controlled from the home university campus via a commercial broadband wireless uplink. The only information available to the rover controller for performing the tasks would be transmitted through an on-board rover video camera(s) or other on-board sensors.

Tele-operated by the university teams, the rovers navigated a series of obstacles while accomplishing a variety of tasks such as picking up specific rock samples and carrying them through the course.

The rover had a difficulty with its arm mechanism, which limited its ability to grasp and transport rock samples. Outreach to the public was another goal of the competition, and the UNL team video can be viewed at Learn more about the team at

Aiaa club rocket photoThe UNL AIAA club’s Rocket Team earned “Best Looking Rocket” at the USLI 1MileHigh competition in Huntsville, Ala., in April. Several members of the team also built a payload launched by NASA in June.


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