Jewish aspiring engineers design a Mars Rover

April 6, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Five years ago, Joel Kuperholz was one of a four-person team, to win the Monash University Warman Design and Engineering Award for their autonomous Mars rover.

From Left: Tal Donde, Ariel Elbaum, Joel Kuperholz, Daniel Szmerling and the Nova Rover’s 2022 Luna and Mars Explorer.

Joel and three of his partners have been invited to judge other hopeful Australian teams at Adelaide University competing for the 2022 University Rover Challenge.

He told J-Wire: “From sleeping under the table, in our workshop while pulling all-nighters while designing our autonomous Mars Rover, to competing at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, to being invited to NASA, I’m so gratified and humbled to see our ambitious hopes being fulfilled by the current students who’ve built on and improved on our mission.

I was so proud and excited to see the high calibre of students, especially Jewish students, making our dreams a reality.

After winning the award in 2017, they redesigned their device and took out a clean sweep of the Australasian awards, with a revolutionary design that could detach components when they had fulfilled their usefulness. From this design and building win, the four teammates moved on to participate in the Tikkun Olam Makeathon, building a prototype in 72 hours to assist people with disabilities in being able to perform a desired physical challenge, from riding a bike, to pouring a liquid to exercising for fitness and strength.

The four teammates formed a committee deciding to become the first Australian team to compete in the University Rover Challenge (URC) by the Mars Society, a robotics competition for university-level students that challenges teams to design and build a rover that would be of use to early explorers on Mars. The competition is held annually at the Mars Desert Research Station, outside Hanksville, Utah in the United States.

They created the Nova Rover Team at Monash University and pulled off the impossible when they were accepted to compete in their first year. Joel and his three teammates together with two new friends jumped into action and received great immediate support from the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering. They were given a generous grant and workspace and recruited a multi-disciplinary team including students from Science, Law, Business, Engineering and Medicine, the 15 members applied cross-disciplinary learnings into the design of the rover.  

Joel is thrilled to see that Nova Rover has become a permanent fixture at Monash University. This year the team included four Jewish aspiring engineers: Ariel Elbaum (LYC Graduate), Tal Donde (Bialik Graduate), Daniel Szmerling and Jory Braun (KDS Graduates).

He said: “The uniqueness of the Australian competition as compared to the URC at NASA’s Mars facility in Utah is the inter-team camaraderie and support. Students from all cultural backgrounds, faculties, Universities and Australian states united through passion to innovate and challenge themselves, support each other with advice, parts and even fixing their competitors rovers. It was a great display of Australian spirt.”

He added: “It’s impossible to predict how the dominoes will fall, especially when you didn’t even know you were playing!”

And hopefully, these Jewish engineers will be designing, programming, building and creating technology for Australia’s space program. The dominoes are certainly looking promising. 

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