Team Molebots participates in Drillbotics competition

A group of five Colorado School of Mines students recently competed in the 2017 Drillbotics Competition, one of seven teams to make it to the final round of the international competition. 

Team Molebots, made up of one electrical engineering senior, three mechanical engineering seniors and one graduate student in petroleum engineering, competed in the competition as part of the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Capstone Design Program. The competition is hosted by the Drilling Systems Automation Technical Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and encourages innovation in drilling automation.

Team Molebots at Senior Design Trade Fair
Team Molebots presents their design at the Senior Design Trade Fair.

The competition challenges students to design, create and program a drill rig that can autonomously drill through a two-foot-thick rock sample. Once the drilling begins, team members are not allowed to make any changes or provide any input to the rig, which must drill through the rock within two hours. Team Molebots’ rig made it approximately three-quarters of the way through the rock before they reached the time limit.

“Unfortunately, we suffered a large mechanical failure that led to some safety concerns, so we weren’t able to push the rig as hard as we would have liked,” said petroleum engineering graduate student Reed Baker. This is the second year in a row Baker has competed in the competition, which requires one member of each team to study petroleum engineering. 

Team Molebots, which was the first of the finalists to compete, won’t know the results of the competition until later this summer. If they win, they will be invited to present a paper about their design at SPE’s annual conference. 

The multidisciplinary competition also offered a great learning experience for students who hadn’t previously worked in petroleum engineering. 

“I really enjoyed this competition,” said mechanical engineering senior Nick Collins. “I’ve always been interested in robotics and automation, so this competition played to those interests. I also learned a lot about drilling, which taught me more about how to figure out the parameters of a system, what can go wrong, and how to fix it. I can definitely apply the knowledge to my future career, and have already had several job prospects show interest in my experience.”

“I am delighted at our consistent improvement and results every year,” said Team Molebots’ faculty advisor and mechanical engineering professor Carolina Payares-Asprino. “We are proud of the students’ Senior Design efforts through each phase, and especially of our SPE Drillbotics team that took home a Top 10 finish.”

Megan Hanson, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science and Engineering | 303-384-2358 |
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 |

About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public research university focused on science and engineering, where students and faculty together address the great challenges society faces today - particularly those related to the Earth, energy and the environment.