It is interesting how these creations evolve and discover themselves. I think that this post will be one to refer to as a means of referencing the importance of the early (sometimes redundant) low and medium risk designs. I don't approach these with any preconceived notion of what they are, my early drawings are really only diagrams or representation of functional qualities. For instance, if this thing needs to crawl and latch onto things, it may have a very hunched posture, which informs me of what to illustrate.
This is a rover, or something that is sent to investigate and explore the Cerian planet to both determine if there is life, as well as geological information.
I divided up my drawings into my risk levels. This is something I find beneficial for thinking through what works best, and ultimately fall back designs. I know that if the high risk design is not working out, that the medium risk should be a bit more easy to work within. Obviously, I am striving to design high risk designs because for me, this is what my job is to do. Keep in mind, high risk designs are feasible, but may be more complex in figuring out how they actually function. High risk designs still offer realistic solutions. How can I take influence and inspiration from other things, work within design criteria and specific constraints, and project an emulation of the subject?
I also tried some new ways of generating ideas quickly. I was working to finish my deadline for the end of year show, so I wanted to generate a lot of things, and as quickly as possible. I started by working in the groups from top to bottom. The top groups were just straight sketches and ideas of potential functions. Keep in mind, even at this point, I have no preconceived idea of what this thing will actually look like. These are starting points, almost random, but diagrammatic in nature. The second lines are silhouettes that are made literally in a few seconds by scribbling, or adding wide brush strokes. This is the first time I tried it, and actually I think I got some decent things from them. I pull them down to line 3 then, and draw over top the shape, seeing what I can make out of them. This is a good exercise for designing, because I have no idea what I am going to make them into. I want to reiterate that this part of the design is really almost randomly generated. I am only considering proportions, lines, curves, and a general means of function. I really don't start considering the individual components yet, all I know is that this thing has got to be able to move around a lot, on icy rocky terrain. I consider all the ways that this may work best: tracks, wheels, claws, spikes, propulsion, and ultimately a well balanced mix.
I selected some of the designs that had the most merit, and moved forward with projecting plan diagrams to be able to construct some perspectives. This point, I also introduced some inspirations from nature. Woolly mammoths, Lobsters, and Ghost Crabs were the first set. These were also a mix of low and medium design possibilities. These also utilized tracks, claws, wheels, and skis. Nothing too exciting here, but still, I have to generate them to determine what may work the best.
Keep in mind, I am working fast, and trying to get a lot of options out there. The next set is my high risk design, which I already figured had the most potential from the beginning. I really looked at quad copters, tri copters, and other types of propulsive systems to really generate something that was feasible, and really different from what we have ever seen or consider for a rover.
Ceres has really low gravity, so propulsion is really a good idea. You could effortlessly glide across the planet with very little energy. These need to function in a few basic ways. 1) it needs to land and take off. 2) it makes sense to be able to escape velocity and orbit the planet, and then just re-land, rather than just fly everywhere. Although both are options. 3) it needed to be able to move once it landed to be able to collect samples, test things, and do science. So it needed some form of movement beyond propulsion. This is what makes it high risk design because every rover we have known has only ever had wheels and has been driven on a surface.
I eventually came up with this final concept. Once again, this is all designed in a matter of hours. There may be about 9 hours of actual designing and researching up to this point, so it is an extremely fast turn around once you get the ideas collected and arranged.
I looked at arrangements of both landing, orbiting, and taking off and considered them for potentials individually. This is important because this thing has got to be able to control is roll, pitch, yaw in which it is helpful to have points of thrust. As I got to tinkering around, I thought, well why not just combined them. This is really the point in which this thing just springs to life.
And so here it is. The septapod (7 points of contact) One multi-directional split track, two terrain skis, and 4 ion drive thrusters. This is one mean looking rover and would be just the type of machine to design for the Cerian ice world.