UAE Moon mission: Dubai students build their own version of Rashid Rover

Guided by the Dubai Future Labs and the Ministry of State for Artificial Intelligence, the students were able to assemble their rover prototype in three months


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Fri 28 Oct 2022, 4:34 PM

Last updated: Fri 28 Oct 2022, 9:55 PM

Using pipes, connectors and some borrowed vehicle parts, students at a school in Dubai were able to build a prototype of a lunar rover — one that can collect samples from the Moon.

The Year 13 students of Dubai International Academy (DIA) Emirates Hills took inspiration from the UAE's Rashid Rover, which is all set to blast off for its historic mission this month.

Their creation may look like a simple racing kart at first glance — but this innovation can do wonders, according to the group.

Mehul Vemareddy, Prateeti Saran, Umar Ingalls, Soumyo Satyanarayanan, and Kshiteez Panigrahi constructed the lightweight rover that can move at a top speed of 30km per hour.

"The rover's rear is controlled by an electric motor that will work through a throttle. It's a DC motor. And at the front, we have a regular steering setup that you can find on any kart or car — however, ours is controlled with a stepper motor, which allows us to control it remotely," said Panigrahi.

The students also built rover's accessories, including a solar panel and a robotic arm designed to collect samples from the lunar surface.

In the future, they may even incorporate artificial intelligence into the 80kg machine so it can complete missions autonomously.

Guided by the Dubai Future Labs and the Ministry of State for Artificial Intelligence, the students were able to assemble their rover prototype in three months. They even held an event to showcase the working model.

"We were fortunate enough to get a visit from the Dubai Future Labs. They got quite interested in it. Then they actually invited us so that we could talk about our plan. We organised a guided tour," said Ingalls, another team member.

A big challenge

Over the last few months, the students have been running around, even calling suppliers from China, just to get the parts they needed for the project.

"Cost is also a big problem when it comes to such independent projects. So, most of the parts have been sourced here in the UAE in Dubai and Sharjah," student Mehul said.

"The main structure, which was built with pipes, was taken from a warehouse in Sharjah. The main vehicular elements were borrowed from a go-kart shop."

The electrical elements were taken from Chinese suppliers, while a few connectors and some niche items were brought in from the US.

The students had to face several challenges while working on the project.

"There's so many real world issues that come, which you can't really study – once you study theory of mechanics or the programming side of it. So, we've had to deal with them as they came," explained Prateeti.

Maker Movement

Asked how they came up with the idea, Vemareddy, one of the five creators, said: "This was inspired by two things. First, the Maker Movement, a subculture that was started in the US about 10 years ago. Students were encouraged to build whatever it might be. We identified that this was lacking in Dubai...So, we're planning on kick-starting this in our school using this project."

"The reason why we've chosen a lunar rover prototype as the foundation for this Maker Movement is that we found a gap in the space launch community. This was inspired by the upcoming lunar rover mission of the UAE, as well as greatly by the Artemis missions by the US," the student added.

The team also received funding from their school under its Incubator Programme.

Poonam Bhojani, CEO of Innoventures Education, said the school's 'Incubator Programme' is not only aimed at developing futuristic ideas but also encouraging problem-based learning that is focused on digital transformation.

"At Innoventures Education, we believe in nurturing our young minds to think out of the box, thereby inculcating creativity and critical thinking skills in them from a very young age. We are proud of the success of our students in having built their own rover in line with the UAE Rover' Rashid'," added Bhojani.


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