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Photo caption: Florida Polytechnic University students Edward Davis, left, Brandyn Langston, Skyler Batteiger, Gabe Gamet, and Purcell Anderson, and faculty members Dr. Younggil Park, Dr. Onur Toker, and Dr. Feng-Jen Yang visit Kennedy Space Center as part of a team collaborating on a capstone project designing a planetary rover for the Florida Space Institute.

Tampa Bay

Florida Poly students are building a Mars rover

The planetary rover could be used to explore and collect samples.

A team of students at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland is working on creating a planetary rover that could explore Mars.

The 14-member student team is developing the rover for the Florida Space Institute as part of Florida Polytechnic’s yearlong capstone design program, which partners corporate and research partners with students and faculty to tackle real world problems.

The rover could be used to not only explore Mars, but also collect samples and provide a close-up look at places yet undiscovered.

“You’re getting actual work experience and working with someone who is a professional in the field and really wants the project to work,” said mechanical engineering major Gabe Gamet. “I personally think this is absolutely amazing.”

Gamet leads the mechanical engineering portion of the team. He works on the planetary rover and was among five team members who visited Kennedy Space Center in mid-October to discuss their work with NASA engineers. Electrical engineering and computer science students make up the other two portions of the team.

“Talking to these engineers who work on all these crazy projects on a daily basis changes the way you think about a large-scale project like this,” said mechanical engineering senior Purcell Anderson. “They definitely opened our eyes to what we are capable of and how we can approach this challenge.”

The students remain in communication with NASA engineers as they continue work on the rugged, multipurpose rover, which will be adaptable for many uses including drilling, collecting samples and observing conditions.

“Creating a rover takes all disciplines,” said mechanical engineering professor Younggil Park, one of the project’s faculty mentors. “It’s not going to be located on this planet, so students have to learn a lot to meet the requirements.”

The team of students are using parts from a previous similar project at another university.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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