Timeline

  • Submission start (ET):
    09/26/2018 09:00 AM
  • Submission end (ET):
    01/31/2019 02:59 AM

Type Of Challenge: Technology demonstration and hardware

With its sulfuric acid clouds, temperatures over 450°C, and 92 times the surface pressure of Earth, Venus is one of the most hostile planetary environments in the solar system. Prior missions have only survived hours! But an automaton (or clockwork mechanical robot) could solve this problem. By utilizing high-temperature alloys, the clockwork rover would survive for months, allowing it to collect and return valuable long-term science data from the surface of Venus. To learn more about the automaton rover, see this link.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we are turning this innovative concept into reality under a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) funded study. We’ve been working hard on this project, but we could use YOUR help to address some of our toughest mechanical design challenges! The Mechanical Maker Challenges are a series of challenges seeking to engage YOUR creativity to invent mechanical ways of performing traditionally electrical tasks. Challenges will be released in series, one at a time.

Our Inaugural Challenge: The Mechanical Eye

Currently, there are no cameras or imagers that work for more than a few minutes at Venus temperatures. However, imagery is critical for both informing science and public engagement. In the words of Carl Sagan “It is within our capability to land a rover on Mars that could scan its surroundings, see the most interesting place in its field of view and, by the same time tomorrow, be there. Such a mission would reap enormous scientific benefits, even if there is no life on Mars. Public interest in such a mission would be sizable. Every day a new set of vistas would arrive on our home television screens.” Similarly, for Venus, imagery on a long duration rover is critical. The driving science goal for the mechanical, clockwork style camera is to take images of rocks and geologic features near the rover. This provides context for any samples obtained so relationships between the sample and the rest of Venus geology can be better understood.

The Challenge: Build a mechanical camera system that:

  • Has a field of view of 2 meter x 2 meters at 2.5 meters from the camera (angular field of view about 60 degrees)
  • Has a maximum pixel size of 10 mm x 10 mm (minimum resolution of 200 x 200 pixels)
  • Converts the image into an electrical or rotational signal. This electrical or rotational signal must be transmitted at least 1 meter to another location, and then used to reconstruct the image.
  • Completes the task within 5 hours.

Demonstration at JPL and Commemorative Mechanical Maker Challenge Coin - First Place

$1,000

The first place winner will have the opportunity to demonstrate and give a short presentation on their device at JPL/Caltech. JPL/Caltech will cover all travel costs up to $1,000. 

First place winner will also receive a Commemorative Mechanical Maker Challenge Coin.

Commemorative Mechanical Maker Challenge Coin - Second Place

Get serious bragging rights with the mechanical maker challenge coin. The top 3 entries (First, Second, and Third) will receive a coin.

Commemorative Mechanical Maker Challenge Coin - Third Place

Get serious bragging rights with the mechanical maker challenge coin. The top 3 entries (First, Second, and Third) will receive a coin.

Build a mechanical camera system that:

  • Has a field of view of 2 meter x 2 meters at 2.5 meters from the camera (angular field of view about 60 degrees)
  • Has a maximum pixel size of 10 mm x 10 mm (minimum resolution of 200 x 200 pixels)
  • Converts the image into an electrical or rotational signal. This electrical or rotational signal must be transmitted at least 1 meter to another location, and then used to reconstruct the image.
  • Completes the task within 5 hours.

Constraints:

  • Electronics: Some simple electrical components are allowed including wires, resistors, inductors, capacitors, one photo diode, and a maximum of one op amp. (High temperature photodiodes are a realistic technology that many foresee on the near horizon. Hence, a hybrid electro/mechanical solution is likely possible, using very minimal electronics.)
  • Size: The entire mechanical camera must fit in a box 200 mm x 200 mm x 200 mm. (it is acceptable to have elements which extend or deploy outside of the box during operation). The box and limitations do not include the image reconstruction device.
  • Inputs: The maximum number of inputs are one rotating shaft and two wires. The rotating shaft may be of any size, rotated at any speed, with any amount of torque desired (note, shaft can be connected to a motor outside of the box). One of the wires is for power wire and the other ground/neutral. The maximum voltage difference across the wires shall be 9 V or less, and a maximum current of 300 mA (i.e. essentially can be driven by a 9V battery).
  • Outputs: The camera must provide outputs via either electrical signals or rotating shafts. The maximum number of outputs from the camera are 3 (i.e. 3 wires or 3 rotating shafts, or a combination of wires and rotational shafts). There are no limits on the technology that can be connected to the receiving end of the outputs one meter away. 

Basic Reference Image for Judging:

  • The camera must take an image of a regulation size 7 basketball (9.4 to 9.55 inches in diameter) and an upright rectangular object (e.g. a wooden board) which is 24” by 48”. A regulation size tennis ball must be in the imaging area (2.57 to 2.70 inches in diameter). Objects are to be aligned 2.5 meters from the camera imaging area (see graphic below). Background may be any color. Exact placement of the objects within the frame (side to side and height) are not critical, as long as objects are fully in the frame and in a plane 2.5 meters from the imager.
  • An image with a digital camera must be taken from the same vantage point as the mechanical camera. This image will be used to calculate image accuracy.

 

Scoring:

  • Scoring is divided into a baseline point and then bonus points. The final score is calculated as follows:
  • Final Score = (Baseline Score)*(1.0 + Bonus Score)
    • Baseline Score = Points Per Objects Resolved/(Time to Take Image (in minutes)+10)
      • “Object Resolved” is defined as the contest judges being able to identify the object in the picture taken by the mechanical eye. The image taken with the mechanical camera will be compared with the digital camera image and objects must be in the same locations. For the object to be resolved, the object must also consume the following minimum number of pixels in the image.
        • 80 points are received for resolving the 24” by 48” box
          • Minimum of 6,000 pixels
        • 120 points are received for resolving the Basketball.
          • Minimum of 288 pixels
        • Tennis ball is not required to be resolved, but doing so will result in bonus points (see details below).
      • Time to take the Image: the number of full minutes required to take the image and transmit it for reconstruction (but not necessarily the time to reconstruct the image).
      • Area Size Imaged: More than a 2 meter by 2 meter area may be imaged, but this does not add any bonus.
    • Bonus Score:
      • Additional opportunities for points are available by accomplishing the following. The Final score is calculated as follows:
      • Bonus Score = Detailed Image+ High Temperature + Wires Only + Color Image + Limited Information 
        • Detailed Image: You receive a bonus of 2.0 if your image can resolve the tennis ball, which has a minimum size of 20 pixels.
        • High Temperature: You receive a bonus of 1.0 for high temperature if you can place your device in an oven on the “clean setting” (must be above 233C) for two hours, and take the submitted image afterwards. You receive a bonus of 2.0 if you can place your device in an oven measured at 500C (likely a heat treat furnace) for two hours and take the submitted image afterwards.
        • Wires Only: If you find a way of accomplishing the camera with only wires, and no other electrical components (i.e. no photo diodes, capacitors, etc.), you receive a bonus of 1.0.
        • Color Image: You receive a bonus of 2.0 if your reconstructed image includes color, instead of grayscale.
        • Limited Information: You receive a bonus of 1.0 if you only use two output devices. You receive a bonus of 2.0 if you only use one output device.

Submission Requirements: The contestants must submit a video (via a link to an online video sharing platform like YouTube) of the mechanical camera working, and fully describe how it operates so it is clear to the reviewers. They must also submit the transmitted reconstructed image, and the digital image of the same scene the mechanical camera was capturing, and details on how the signals were reconstructed into an image.

Submission Due Date: 1/30/2019 at 11:59:00 PM PT (1/31/2019 at 02:59:00 AM ET). Video must be received prior to the due date for entry to be valid. Winners will be notified and announced on approximately 4 weeks later. Winning demonstration videos will be posted to the challenge website.

The Reward: Honor, fame and fortune if successful! Well not so much the fortune part, but definitely plenty of bragging rights. The top 3 contestants will receive a unique 3D printed coin from the Mechanical Maker Challenge. The top winning design will also be provided their choice of an opportunity to visit JPL and demonstrate their design (as well as a tour of the facilities).

Rules: Official detailed rules contained in the terms and conditions provided when submitting. But basically:

  • You must be a United States Resident 18 or older.
  • While you retain the rights to your invention, JPL can distribute the information you submit to this challenge, and can use the invention without a license.

 

Submit your entry by uploading a video to Youtube, and then completing the submission form on Challenge.gov.

In your submission, be sure to include:

  • (a) a link to a video of their mechanical camera working
  • (b) a full description (in text or in the uploaded video) of how the mechanical camera operates;
  • (c) an upload of the transmitted reconstructed image;
  • (d) an upload of a digital image of the same scene the mechanical camera was capturing;
  • (e) details (in text) of how the signals were reconstructed into an image;

Note: uploads of videos will not be accepted through the challenge.gov website. Neither YouTube nor any companies affiliated with it are a sponsor or otherwise an endorser of the Challenge.