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UNF students leaving mark on Mars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of engineering students from the University of North Florida hope to leave their mark on Mars -- literally. They're building a mining robot for an upcoming NASA competition at Kennedy Space Center.

The students will be competing with nearly 50 schools including MIT and Cornell. This unique invention may look like something created by experienced professionals, but it's actually the work of a small group of UNF engineering students, looking to win big.

"The purpose of the project really is to simulate a Mars expedition and collect some dirt and return to earth ," said Eric Rutherford, the club founder of Telerobotics.

They're competing to win first place at the NASA mining competition at Kennedy Space Center. If they win, their robotic creation won't actually go to Mars, but NASA will use their ideas for future projects-something the group says they'll also win.

"We get the prestige for the school, which is what were most interested in or competing against a lot of good schools like MIT Cornell and all sorts of major universities, "said Rutherford.

Within the scope of the project , the rover would be able to dig and mine for soil on planet Mars. Rutherford eventually wants a career in space and says projects like this help to pave the way.

"Anything space-related is awesome for me and this experience as a whole has been incredible because you get hands-on experience," adds Rutherford.

Team leader, Juan March says now is crunch time. He can't even imagine the emotions they will be feeling when heading to the Kennedy Space Center in just weeks.

"Probably a lot of excitement and a little bit of freaking out about whether or not it's going to work. Cutting it pretty close right now it's definitely crunch time and we're trying to make our robot fully autonomous," said March

Around 5 or 6 students have worked on the rover that they began working on about 4 months ago. The competition is May 18.

They're also always looking for students to join their Telerobotics club. If you're interested, contact: nkanaparthy@outlook.com