Student team wins first place at NASA research, design competition

Xavier Salcido, a rising senior in electrical engineering, was a member of Team Aurora, which took first place in the NASA Glenn Research Center University Student Design Challenge

Danielle Lacey 
pictured: Team Aurora's award-winning chassis
pictured: Team Aurora's award-winning chassis

A student from the McKelvey School of Engineering and his team members recently won first place at the University Student Design Challenge, an annual competition hosted by NASA’s Glenn Research Center, located in Cleveland.

Xavier Salcido, a rising senior majoring in electrical engineering, was a member of Team Aurora, which included Delano Campos, a student at University of California, Los Angeles; Benjamin Harte, a student at Saint Mary’s College of California; Skye Rummer, a student at University of California, Merced; and Nicole Swatton, a student at Arizona State University.


"When our team learned we had won the competition, I felt very excited, as all our hard work paid off,” Salcido said. “To win such a competition during a pandemic is a huge accomplishment. This was a huge confidence booster for me and my team, as we were able to show our true potential to think like engineers.”

For the competition, the team developed a universal chassis, a load-bearing framework for a rover, with plug-and-play science instruments and mobility capabilities that could streamline robotic exploration across the solar system.

“Each team member had specific roles relating to the different systems for the multiplanetary spacecraft,” Salcido said. “My role was assisting in researching and designing the electronic and power system for the subsystems and scientific instruments, looking at potential communication systems that could fit our desired needs, creating artwork and our team logo, and assisting in writing a 12-page final design report.”

This is not the first time Salcido and his team members had collaborated. The team met previously through NASA’s L'SPACE Academy, a free program for undergraduate STEM students interested in pursuing a career with NASA or other space organizations. 

“I'm beyond grateful to have had such intelligent, diverse and amazing teammates, friends, and future fellow engineers and physicists who made me feel welcome and challenged me to solve problems I have never encountered,” Salcido said. “I'd also like to thank our adviser, Craig Hardgrove, and all those at NASA Glenn Research Center for giving our team an opportunity like this.”

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