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NASA Engineer Coming to Mercer to Discuss Robotics Project

April 16, 2007

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

MACON — Richard Wessenberg, the senior NASA engineer in charge of a robotics project that could one day explore the surfaces of distant planets, will speak at Mercer University at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, in Room 204A at the School of Engineering. Wessenberg will give a presentation on the project, entitled “Addressable Re-configurable Technology (ART) Tetrahedral Robotics at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.”

The event is free and open to the public.

The ART Tetrahedral Robotics project is an effort to develop the next generation of planetary surface explorers, using a tetrahedral shape, allowing the landing craft to move across the surface of planets more easily than current wheeled rovers. Last summer, Mercer Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Philip D. Olivier, along with senior Lauren Janelle, of Tifton, and junior Bryan Solomon, of Byron, spent 10 weeks working on the control system of the new tetrahedral robot with Wessenberg.

The students went as part of a new NASA initiative to bring colleges and universities into the NASA research fold. Olivier had participated in the past, but this was the first time he was able to bring a team of students. The Mercer contingent was part of a group of nearly 200 students and professors from universities around the country who worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, developing the robot, among other projects.

The Mercer team has continued its research throughout the year and Janelle completed her senior design project to contribute to making a part of the control system.

About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit