Ocotillo Elementary School

During the week of March 26-30th, Cyclone Space Mining (CSM) completed an outreach project called “Space Week” with Ocotillo Elementary School in Pheonix, Arizona. This project consisted of a week-long lesson plan involving coding, robotics, and STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math) activities. 

The week began with an introductory video telling the students who CSM is and what they do. In the weeks leading up to this project, students at Ocotillio Elementry School came up with and sent questions to Iowa State University alumni and retired NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson. Clayton answered these questions in a video that was presented to the students during class. The former astronaut also signed four copies of his new children’s book, A is for Astronaut, which CSM sent to the school. 

During the second activity, students learned about computer programming. This involved activities such as “Computer Says”, a computer version of Simon Says, that helped to solidify that computers need input in order to function properly. Towards the end of this lesson, the students learned the basics of Bee-Bots, which they would use for their mission to Mars.

CSM introduced the students to robotics during the third lesson. The students watched a video with interviews of Iowa State University professors talking about robotics. Then they learned about real-life applications of robotics, like the manufacturing robots at Quality Manufacturing Corporation in Urbandale, Iowa. After watching this video, the students were able to build and color their own paper robots.

The final mission was to send a Bee-Bot to Mars! After watching a trailer for the mission, the students drove their Bee-Bot to the rocket on the launchpad, and then explored Mars. The students followed six guiding cards that gave them the instructions for their mission. Once they had completed their mission on Mars, students planted their custom flag and received mission patches to celebrate their hard work.

See more photos of this event on our Flickr page: 

Watch the videos on our Facebook page:


Cyclone Space Mining would like to thank Clayton Anderson, Quality Manufacturing Corporation in Urbandale, Jaeyoun Kim, and Soumik Sarkar for assisting us in making videos for this outreach project. CSM also would like to thank the students and faculty of Ocotillio Elementry School for making this project happen!

Mission 2017

This year, in preparation for our journey to the NASA RMC, we designed Mission Patches, similar to those that NASA produces for the crew of each mission/expedition. 

It is our sincere hope to continue this new tradition as part of Cyclone Space Mining for years to come. 

Meaning behind the patch.

Centered on a blue field, is the symbol of Cyclone Space Mining; the Black Cyclone with 3 orbs.  

The blue field represents Earth; which we stand on to look out at other celestial bodies.  

The 3 orbs represent the Sun (gold) , Moon (silver), and Mars (red).  From Earth we can see these 3 important celestial bodies.  The sun which gives us light and energy; the Moon as our friendly neighbor and original mining and colonization goal, and lastly, Mars, our new mining and colonization target. 

The orbs of gold and red also represent Iowa State University as our school colors; cardinal and gold.

The silver orb also serves as the center of a silver galaxy; as we look beyond our solar system and into the Milky Way for inhabitable planets to explore.

The shape of the patch is a downward facing arrow.  The point facing downward represents the direction in which our robots are digging; down to the regolith.

The gold rounded arch inside the arrow represents the horizon; as we are rising up to reach our boundaries, and surpass them. 

The flat base of the arrow is “NASA RMC”; the event which is the foundation of our organization; the reason we have come together to work.  It is also above the horizon, as it is our final destination of the academic year; the culmination of our work. 

The 29 white stars represent Iowa, the 29th state to enter the Union.  


Marshalltown Outreach Event

By Dan Miller and Jess Bales

12593946_1215763935120375_474880753930978125_oAs part of Cyclone Space Mining’s outreach events, the team had the opportunity to spend three hours (two 1.5 hour sessions) with a group of fifth grade students at Lenihan Intermediate School. There were around 18 students and 4 club members attending the classroom sessions.  The goal was to encourage students to get excited about STEM and work together as a team. At the sessions, students formed teams to design, build, and launch paper rockets.

During the first session, Dan Miller and other club members talked about the importance of teamwork. In engineering around the world and especially at NASA, working on a team is the most effective way to build something really cool. The students went around the room and talked about their favorite teams and what made their team successful. This discussion set the tone for the rest of the lesson.

Next, we taught the students about decision matrices. They made their own decision matrices later to decide how they would design their own rockets. The first session concluded with teams choosing names and writing the team name on their initial rocket. After the first session, it was very encouraging to see how excited the kids were for the next class!12572964_1215763821787053_4074524338845016243_n

To begin the second session, the teams reconfigured and reviewed their decision matrices. The students tested their rockets and made adjustments to their rockets.  In the last twenty minutes of the class, Cyclone Space Mining led the final launches on the paper rockets. The winning team launched their rocket 72 feet. The students were astounded with the improvements, beating their previous record of 40 feet.

As the team was leaving, one of the students asked if we would be coming back next year and what activity we would be doing. The growing enthusiasm for STEM was apparent with each rocket launch. Engaging young minds is something we get to do all year, but this event was especially rewarding.  Spending more time with kids and watching them learn over a couple weeks was an amazing experience.

How We Operate Like NASA

NASA, like all other organizations, has many departments that function individually to NASA_logo.svgaccomplish the overall mission of the organization.  Similarly, Cyclone Space Mining has “departments” which focus on different areas of the NASA Robotic Mining Competition (RMC).

While NASA has many, many more departments than our team will ever have; Cyclone Space Mining is set up to run as closely to NASA as we possibly can.  Within our club we have R&D (Research and Development), Controls, Mechanical, Outreach, Public Relations, and Sponsorship teams.  NASA also focuses on those areas, but on a much larger scale.

Our R&D team’s main focus is to come up with new and innovative ideas for future RMCs. Currently, they are working are plans for the 2017 RMC with plans to look even farther into the future.   NASA constantly is conducting research and development for future missions.

The Controls and Mechanical teams work separately but communicate constantly to design and manufacture a robot that is able to operate autonomously.  The project managers and the controls lead are essential to the success of the production of the robot. Without the leadership and communication between those individuals the robot would not run.  Obviously, the designing and manufacturing of rovers, rockets, etc. requires hundreds of engineers of many different disciplines.

Outreach’s main goal is to promote STEM involvement in K-12 students. This year the outreach 12572964_1215763821787053_4074524338845016243_nteam has planned more than 30 individual events and reached at least 4,000 kids.  NASA’s outreach has a much wider intended audience, and even includes our team. The NASA RMC is a huge outreach event which encourages college students to innovate and engineer.

The Public Relations team within the club not only runs the teams social media but works with media outlets covering the club, designs promotional material for the organization, and creates a spirit plan for the competition.  NASA has a very successful PR team which reaches out to media outlets, runs various social media outlets, and works to maintain their public image.

Finally, our sponsorship team is very similar to the business component of NASA.  The sponsorship team reaches out to various engineering companies for funding and materials.  12705741_1230589390304496_4568416348168893173_nHaving funding is essential to the success of the club. NASA also works with the government to receive funding. Both our team and NASA must show our sponsors (the government, in NASA’s case) what we are going to do with their funding.

Modeling our team after NASA has greatly increased the productivity of our team. It also allows team members to diversify their portfolio by working on non-engineering parts of the club in addition to the engineering parts of the organization.


New Location in 2019!

The Student Innovation Center is happening! By when? Not sure yet.    However, tentatively, the demolition of the Nuclear Engineering Building (NucE) is scheduled for January of 2017 and construction is scheduled to begin August of 2017. This puts the estimated completion date around August of 2019.


With the demolition of NucE, Cyclone Space Mining will have to leave the building and move to the Reactor Warehouse, an interim location.  This move will not happen this year, but the club is expected to be vacated from NucE during the Fall 2016 semester.


The Reactor Warehouse is located in North West Ames, which could be a potential problem for workdays.   It is 3,601 sq. ft. and has heating, drains, restrooms, etc.

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This year’s club leadership along with the leadership of other clubs who will be using the warehouse (PRISUM, SAE, Robotics Club, Concrete Canoe etc.) will be making a lot of decisions concerning the use of the warehouse. Issues like the division of space, resources, bussing, safety, hours of operation, and many other logistical problems. There is an opportunity to find a more efficient use of club space by sharing equipment.


After the initial tour of the Reactor Warehouse the following observations were made:

  • The machine shop will take up a large portion of the space
  • Power lines need to be routed into the space for the machinery
  • Concrete Canoe and Cyclone Space Mining have dust needs that cannot be met in the main lab because dust does not go well with engines
  • Parking is available in applied sciences or on the road
  • Clubs using the space will share sponsorship for the new equipment and materials used in the Reactor Warehouse.


The upcoming changes will cause some initial disruption to club operations, however the move to the Reactor Warehouse allow the university build the Student Innovation Center which will create a more permanent and non-basement space for the club to operate in. The Reactor Warehouse will prove to be a good dry run for the new space.

Total Lunar Eclipse of a Supermoon

By Jessica Bales

An eclipse is a process that occurs when one celestial object slowly passes into the shadow of another celestial object. An eclipse is also a very cool event to watch and draws thousands of spectators from their beds a few times a year.

On September 27th, 2015, a very rare total lunar eclipse of a supermoon will occur.  The next one will not occur until 2088. A total lunar eclipse is when the moon passes entirely through the earth’s umbra (umbra: the fully shaded inner region of a shadow)  A total lunar eclipse is sometimes called a blood moon, due to the red tint of the moon during the eclipse. The red tint is caused by the light from the sun’s rays that illuminate the moon traveling through total-lunar-eclipse-blood-moonEarth’s atmosphere. The earth’s atmosphere scatters more blue light, so the remaining light is red-ish.  This is what causes the moon to look red or brownish.

The eclipse happening on the 27th is also a supermoon. A supermoon is when a full moon coincidences with the moon’s closest approach to the earth. The distance from the earth to the moon is 221,753 miles.  The official name of a supermoon is the perigee-syzygy of the earth-moon-sun system. When one of these moons occur it looks 13% larger and 33% brighter than a regular full moon.

This eclipse will be best viewed in the midwestern and eastern part of the United States. It will begin at 7:11pm and end at 12:22pm CST.

Outreach to Kids and the Community

By Logan Crees


Just as fun and important as the space mining competition are the outreach events that many of our club members are so dedicated to. It’s the clubs chance to really give back to the community that supports us. Not only do these events seem to engage the parents, but especially the children. It’s always wonderful to see the change in a child’s face when they walk into the room and see a robot, about as big as many of them, driving across the floor.

One of our goals here in the Lunabotics club is to inspire kids of all ages to be interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.) This not only improves the community’s quality of life in the long run, but also provides a steady stream of new members to the club for years to come. It also allows us to leave the basement of NucE and see the light of day a few times a year. I really think that these experience the kids have by seeing the robot will drive them to be as passionate about STEM as we are. In grade school, it seems these topics are made monotonous and boring. Very few children are excited to learn about science or math, but what kid isn’t crazy about P.E.? Being able to get a kid excited about STEM like they are with P.E. means being hands-on with the courses. Not just having them sit IMG_6810behind a desk and memorize a few science related blurbs, but having them be immersed in the subject and giving them a reason to be excited. The outreach events we go to do fantastic job of doing just that. If you’ve never been to a state middle school robotics competition and been able to really see kids ecstatic about what they’re doing, while also being surround by hundreds of other kids loving what they’re doing, then I highly recommend it.

Recently at one of our outreach events at a local elementary school, we let the children take turns driving last year’s competition robot. Not only were all of the kids excited, but many of the club members looked like they were having a great time showing them how to drive the robot. For almost the entire event, there were excited kids waiting for their chance to drive a “space robot.” This joy and curiosity created and inspired by our robot is the icing on the cake for many members of the club. Not only are we helping to encourage children to enter STEM, but it’s also helping in solidifying our love of STEM.


International Women’s Day

B_XzpBWU0AIeoe2By Jessica Bales

March 8th, this Sunday, is International Women’s Day! One of the Lunabotics Club’s major outreach efforts is to encourage kids, especially young girls, to be involved in science and technology.

Women in engineering offer new perspectives and bring more creativity to the table. According genderstats2to the National Science Board, in a study released in 2012, women make up 47% of the overall workforce, but only 27% of the science and engineering workforce.  So what is going on?  A study conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce suggests that

“STEM career paths may be less accommodating to people cycling in and out of the workforce to raise a family – or it may be because there are relatively few female STEM role models. Perhaps strong gender stereotypes discourage women from pursuing STEM education and STEM jobs.”

While there is no definite explanation for the gender gap in the STEM fields, many organizations, including the ISU Lunabotics club and the ISU College of Engineering, are trying to encourage more women to be interested and involved in science and technology.

I spoke with Diana, Jasmine, and Kelly, three engineering students in the Lunabotics club about their take on women in engineering. “For the most part the only difference (between female engineers and male engineers) is that question” said Kelly, and Diana and Jasmine agreed. The response of the group to that question was ‘treat me like an engineer, not a female engineer.’ In high school, Jasmine experienced some people thinking it was “weird” that she liked math and science.  She advises girls who are interested in engineering to not “listen when people when they tell you it’s weird.”  “Just do what you love” advised Kelly.  Above all, stated Diana, “don’t be intimidated.”




Parts and Why We Use Them

Every year, when manufacturing the robot many tools are used! These tools vary widely in appearance and application. Here are just a few of the tools the ISU Lunabotics clubs uses and a brief explanation about them.

  • Injection molder: This part is pretty straight forward; plastic pellets are first taken and melted into a liquid plastic called molten plastic. An aluminum mold is injected full of the molten plastic. The plastic is then allowed to cool making a newly formed plastic component we can then use on the robot. While this process is expensive, as it requires making a custom mold, the pieces produced are more durable than those parts which have been 3D printed.  We use this process to produce our track drive teeth. Go to this link for more information


  • Multimeter: Many components of our robot use electricity. Electrical components have many properties including resistance, voltage, inductance, and current. A multimeter is used to measure these properties. This is important to know in order to ensure that power is properly distributed throughout the robot.  Different components require different amounts of current and voltage.  A multimeter lets us see what components are actually getting and make corrections as needed.


  • Solidworks: Solidworks is our most used tool. Solidworks is not a hand tool or a shop tool, but a program used to create computer aided design components better known as CAD. It is useful to create a CAD version component because it is cheaper than making the part. This allows us to save money and time as we try out different designs and ensure that the parts will fit together.  Also, once the part has been made in CAD we can define its materials thickness and many other important factors. Using this information we can plan the best way to manufacture the part decreasing the chance of defects and making our robot as successful as it can be with the smallest amount of required resources.