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Applying Systems Engineering to the Lunabotics Mining Competition Capstone Design Challenge

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Capstone Design Courses and Tools in support of Systems Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.203.1 - 23.203.15



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Paper Authors


Lisa Guerra NASA Headquarters

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Lisa Guerra has 27 years of experience in the NASA aerospace community. Ms. Guerra is currently affiliated with NASA Headquarters working policy issues. She recently completed a 2-year assignment with the UTeachEngineering Program developing a model high school engineering course. She also fulfilled an assignment from NASA to establish a systems engineering curriculum at The University of Texas at Austin, as a pilot for national dissemination. Ms. Guerra’s previous position at NASA Headquarters was Director of the Directorate Integration Office in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. In that position, her responsibilities involved strategic planning, international cooperation, cross-directorate coordination, architecture analysis, and exploration control boards. Ms Guerra also spent 3 years at the Goddard Space Flight Center as Program Integration Manager for future high-energy astrophysics missions, particularly the James Webb Space Telescope. She began her career at the Johnson Space Center working for Eagle Engineering and SAIC, focused on conceptual design of advanced spacecraft for human missions to the Moon and Mars.

Ms. Guerra earned a B.S in Aerospace Engineering and a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame. She received a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Gloria A. Murphy NASA

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Gloria A. Murphy is currently the Project Manager of the Lunabotics Mining Competition at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida. Ms. Murphy began her career in 1990 with NASA as a cooperative student in the Payload Processing Directorate. Her first engineering position was an experiment test engineer for the Spacelab Program. In 1998, Ms. Murphy began working on the International Space Station (ISS) Program as a systems engineer for the Multi Element Integrated Test (MEIT). She continued to develop her engineering skills working with many engineering disciplines for testing various hardware and software interfaces between the U.S. and international elements on the Space Station. Her duties included extensive travel to Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, Canada and Japan. Ms. Murphy joined the Launch Services Program in 2003 as an integration engineer for Pegasus and Taurus missions. In this position, she concentrated on the interfaces between the launch vehicle and the spacecraft. Ms. Murphy joined the Education Office in 2007 where she continues to serve as the project manager for the Lunabotics Mining Competition.
Ms. Murphy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida, a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from the Florida Institute of Technology.

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Lisa D. May NASA Headquarters

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Ms. May is currently the Lead Program Executive for NASA's Mars Exploration Program. In addition, she is the Program Executive for the MAVEN mission launching to Mars this year, Mars Technology, and Mars Sample Return. She leads budget and review processes and supports the Division Director in technical decision making. Prior to joining the Mars program, Ms. May held a number of positions enabling NASA science missions, including Special Assistant for Strategic Planning at Headquarters and Senior Proposal Manager at NASA Goddard.

Before Ms. May signed on with NASA, she ran a systems engineering and proposal management company, Jackson-May Associates. Her clients included small companies, major aerospace firms, and NASA.

Ms. May has a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering and a bachelor's in Speech Communications, both from the University of Virginia. In addition to her technical career, she has experience in journalism and currently is the female narrator for NASA's ScienceCasts.

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Applying Systems Engineering to the Lunabotics Mining Competition Capstone Design Challenge Lunabotics Mining Competition is a university-level challenge intended for thecapstone design experience. The competition encourages the development of innovativelunar excavation concepts that may result in clever ideas and solutions applicable to anactual lunar excavation device or payload. The basic challenge is for student teams todesign and build a remote controlled or autonomous excavator, called a Lunabot that canmaneuver over rough simulated lunar terrain and, collect and deposit a minimum of 10kilograms of lunar simulant within 10 minutes. In order to produce and demonstrate aviable design, students are required to apply systems engineering techniques. This paperaddresses the application of systems engineering as an integral part of the Lunaboticsdesign challenge. The systems engineering portion of the Lunabotics competition results in a papersubmitted prior to the actual mining event. University teams vie for the best systemsengineering paper award, as their paper scores contribute to the grand prize score. TheLunabotics systems engineering paper scoring rubric involves three categories: content,intrinsic merit, and technical merit. The content category focuses on professional format,valid sources, and the purpose of the systems engineering paper. Intrinsic merit requiresstudents to address the management dimensions to systems engineering, including thebudget, schedule, major design reviews, and the identification of key design deliverables.The majority of the scoring resides in the technical merit category. Technical merit, interms of systems engineering, includes the following: concept of operations, systemshierarchy, system interfaces, requirements definition, trade-off assessments, reliability,and verification the system meets the requirements. This paper highlights the qualities of the winning systems engineering papersfrom the three years of the Lunabotics design challenge. Emphasis is placed on theevolving understanding of systems engineering by the university teams, as well as theability to address the stated challenge requirements. Key requirements for each year’scompetition include the abrasive characteristics of the lunar simulant, the weight and sizelimitations of the Lunabot, and the ability to control the Lunabot from a remote controlcenter. The paper will compare the results of the systems engineering paper scores withthe performance of the lunabots in the challenge. Finally, the paper discusses theperspective of the paper judges, all practicing systems engineers, such as the commonstudent misunderstandings about systems engineering and the attempts to refine thescoring rubric for future competitions. By demonstrating the application of systemsengineering to the Lunabotics design challenge, this paper makes the case for inclusion ofsystems engineering into university-level capstone curricula to improve engineeringdesign.

Guerra, L., & Murphy, G. A., & May, L. D. (2013, June), Applying Systems Engineering to the Lunabotics Mining Competition Capstone Design Challenge Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19217

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