Mimicking Mars A Trip To Pennsylvania State University

The 2019 Capstone Design Project Showcase took place on the 25th of April at the Bryce Jordan Center in Pennsylvania. Belgium Campus software engineering students, Adam Britz, Sumare Maritz and Abigayle Gagiano, travelled to Pennsylvania to present the project they worked on, in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University engineering students.

Belgium Campus has been collaborating with Pennsylvania State University, specifically their engineering faculty, on joint industry innovation projects since 2015. These industry related projects contribute to Belgium Campus student’s portfolios and equip them with the skills and experience necessary to enter the working world without apprehension. The projects are built around the students set course modules and as such the two work together to create a bigger picture and greater understanding of the topics at hand. The collaboration takes place via virtual learning and trips like this give students an opportunity to meet each other in person.

This year’s students worked on a project called The Simulated Mars Rover Project sponsored by Lockheed Martin, a project aimed at controlling the movements of the Mars rover to simulate a resource recovery mission. Pennsylvania State University students worked on the industrial, mechanical and electrical components during the semester, while Belgium Campus students developed the software to control the rover. On arrival in Pennsylvania, the project concept design was finalised before the project was presented to a panel of industry experts.

The Mars rover was showcased along with 125 other capstone design projects, all with the purpose of providing solutions to real-world issues presented by industry clients. The level of feedback students receive at a showcase like this is invaluable and whether or not they are chosen as the winner, they have gained an immense amount of vital, globally translatable, industry knowledge

Francois Venter, one of the mentors, stressed the importance of international collaboration and trips in providing students with a global perspective and assisting them to integrate into the globalised world we live in. “Being in the IT field many projects span countries and continents and it is important to be open to different approaches to innovation. Experiences like this equip our student’s with vitals skills, as well as the ability to overcome difficulties such as time zones, language barriers and cultural barriers, in order to make sure projects work,” he stated. Students are also able network with international experts, which opens up job opportunities they may not have otherwise had access to.

According to Venter, the rover project is likely to continue later this year with a different set of students. We wait in anticipation to see what they will do to take the project one step further.