Lake Superior State University
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Alum Success

“I chose LSSU expecting a very good engineering education. What I didn’t expect was faculty with real-world engineering experience and abilities, labs with real-world equipment, projects with real-world outcomes, and an entire campus staff with real interest in my success, as a student and yet today. My LSSU engineering education has created or supported every desired career opportunity. LSSU was absolutely the right place for me.”

Dan Goodrich,
Mechanical Engineering 1999,
Vehicle Test & Development,
Electronic Brake Systems Group

Electrical Engineering

LSSU is 1 of only 3 universities in the U.S. with a robotics specialization at the undergraduate level

Engineering alum designs, builds moon truck

Lake Superior State University engineering alum's latest project for NASA has been unveiled at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The "Chariot" is a prototype lunar utility truck that will let astronauts haul payloads across the Moon's surface within the next 20 years, if all goes according to plan.

It's the latest in a series of projects that Tom Waligora has thrown himself into since being hired more than three years ago by the space systems division (OSS) of Oceaneering Advanced Technologies. The Houston-based company designs everything from hardware for shuttle and space station astronauts to use on EVAs, to intricate mechanisms that eject satellites into orbit from the space shuttle or other rockets.

Other OSS specialties include thermal protection systems for rockets, and robotic systems for military, space, and biological research The company also supports astronaut training in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center in Clear Lake, Tex.

His first company project was to help develop a microsatellite deployment system for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program, designed to fly in the Space Shuttle’s cargo bay. It was used during a flight that Shuttle Discovery made to the Space Station last December.

Waligora spent most of 2007 working with a group of engineers on the Chariot concept. Designing a space truck that moves around in the Moon's 1/6 gravity is challenging. Should it have four wheels? Do astronauts sit on seats? Should it have a computer-controlled active suspension? Should it steer like a car? The Chariot project had to answer all of these questions in only eleven months.

A lunar architecture team first evaluated vehicle types against mission requirements, and then considered launch limits and cost constraints. Then it was up to Waligora and other engineers to build a working prototype.

The 5,000-pound vehicle moves 15 miles an hour. Waligora mentions that the team would like to up its maximum speed to 30. Each of the truck's eight wheels generate 600 foot-pounds of torque, four times that of an average SUV engine. It will carry tools, science equipment, and samples. An astronaut can operate it from on board or remotely, or the truck can drive itself.

Crews will ride inside their own spacesuits or in a small, pressurized cabin. Pairs of Chariots will easily extend a crew's work area beyond walking distance.

Next up is a series of tests that will evaluate the design, like inclines to gauge how well it climbs hills and rock gardens that evaluate how well it clears obstacles.


Jim Devaprasad

"It is rewarding to be part of the LSSU family that cares for its students not only when they are here in classes but also what happens to them after they are done.  If a student wants to be a big fish in a small pond, this is the place to be. ".

--Jim Devaprasad

  • ABB Inc.
  • ESSAR Steel Algoma
  • Algoma Tubes
  • Alternative Robotics
  • Applied Manufacturing Technologies
  • Avaya Technologies
  • Breitburn Energy/Quicksilver Resources
  • Cadillac Electric
  • Chrysler Corporation
  • Continental Teves, Inc.
  • Dane Systems
  • Dassault Systemes Inc.
  • Diamond Systems
  • Edison Sault Electric Company
  • Electronic Data Systems (EDS)
  • Engineered Machined Products, Inc.
  • EXEL North America
  • Fanuc Robotics
  • Ford Motor Company
  • GB Lumina Inc.
  • Great Lakes Power, Brookfield Power Corporation
  • J.R. Automation
  • Kawasaki
  • Leco Corporation
  • Lincoln Electric
  • MagneTec Drives & Systems
  • Michigan Scientific
  • National Instruments
  • Oceaneering Space Systems, division of Oceaneering International
  • Oregon State University - College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Schefenacker Vision Systems
  • Stryker Medical
  • Systems Control



Dereck Wonnacutt Robotics and Computer Science

"Lake Superior State is the only robotics program of its kind in the country. I can work up any research or senior project idea with a professor or my advisor. I studied for a year in Japan through LSSU's connection with the Japan Center for Michigan Universities, and became fluent in Japanese. A Japanese company called Fanuc makes most of the robots in our lab. I'd like to roll my senior research project into a career with Fanuc that bridges the two countries and cultures."

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