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Friday, May 10th, 2013

Mini rover rolls into museum

Student model will pique visitors' 'curiosity'

By Eric Adams

Ohio Northern University students Liz Spingola and Alec Flemming control Curio,. . .

WAPAKONETA - It's one small model for a museum, but one giant educational tool for residents and local students alike.
Curio, a 1/4 scale fully-functional model of the Mars rover Curiosity, debuted Thursday afternoon at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta.
The six-wheel drive, remote-controlled model was a year-long effort by engineering students at Ohio Northern University. Junior Liz Spingola, an engineering education major and project manager for Curio, said one semester was devoted to planning, the other to construction.
"The whole scope of the project was rather large ... and the timeline was very strong," said Spingola. "(But) we were able to build what we had to build."
The engineering students acquired drawings from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located at the California Institute of Technology, to ensure accuracy.
"We wanted to make sure that we made it as true to the rover as possible," she said. "It was a very meticulous process."
Materials for the model also required creative innovation.
Curio's wheels were made from PVC pipe, while the masthead, which houses the model's camera, was developed through 3-D printing.
"That's basically when you take plastic and layer it on itself," Spingola said. "You take a computer aided drafting file ... and it prints out a 3D part."
Students also crafted the body and suspension themselves; Spingola said the only purchased parts were motors and "some electronics."
Eric Baumgartner, professor of mechanical engineering at ONU, said the idea was born during a summer meeting with museum director Chris Burton.
"(Burton) talked about the desire to expand the displays here, to go beyond the moon to Mars," said Baumgartner.
Burton originally asked Baumgartner where he might buy a Mars rover, which prompted a discussion about a concept Baumgartner had for a new student program at ONU's College of Engineering.
"EPICS or Engineering Projects in Community Service is a program at the university where you work with a community partner to find out what needs they have, then assemble a student team to address that need." said Baumgartner. "It sort of all came together at the same time."
Curio will now be on permanent display at Armstrong museum and will also make its rounds at several area schools.
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