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Engineering students test device in Nevada desert

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A team of mechanical engineering seniors from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette recently built an autonomous machine to compete in a design and course navigation contest in Nevada's Black Rock Desert

Joey Doring, Tyler Dupuis, Aaron James and Matthew Smith put their creation, Red Rover, to the test.

The rover, which resembles a coffee can with wide rubber tires, was launched via rocket over the desert and ejected at 12,000 feet. The goal was to have Red Rover land, then use GPS navigation to arrive at a target location. That plan, however, didn't pan out.

Red Rover's parachute deployed. But sometime before it hit the ground, its wheels popped off.

Dr. Joshua Vaughan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UL Lafayette and the team's advisor, said the rover's fate was typical.

"Most of the machines don't survive ejection and landing," he explained. More than 30 teams, including one from Georgia Tech, also competed in the contest.
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