Picus Martius

The NIU Mars Rover team officially started in July 2017, but unofficially the makings of this club were started the year before on August 2016. Five engineering seniors from Northern Illinois University - Matthew Woodall, Tim Olson, Gunnar Beachler, Dan Petschow, and Tom Jareczek - designed, machined, programmed, and worked together to create a rover for their senior design. They received first place for their senior design at the NIU Spring 2017 Mechanical Engineering Senior Design. The club was built from their senior design with the purpose of educating and challenging students. As well as bring other students to work together on a project that they will enjoy working on.

This product of these beginning was Picus Martius, our first rover. The name Picus Martius stems from the taxonomy of the Great Black Woodpecker. According to Roman mythology, the figure Picus was known for his skill in augury or interpretation of the will of the gods through studying the flight of birds. The bird that Picus namely studied was the Great Black Woodpecker, thus leading to the woodpecker becoming greatly revered by Romans as a source of information by the gods. Given the deep connection between the woodpecker and Roman mythology, these lead scientists to later name the genus and species of the Great Black Woodpecker after the figure Picus and the god Mars (Martius). Since the black woodpecker, Picus Martius, was utilized by humans to obtain information from the god Mars, Picus Martius is the perfect name for a machine that would be used by humans to obtain information from the planet Mars.Picus Martius was officially retired in 2018.

Ad Astra

After Picus Martius was retired, we got to designing and building our new rover, Ad Astra, a name meaning “to the stars”. Manufacturing for Ad Astra began in the Fall of 2018, and is still underway. As of Fall 2019, Ad Astra is ready to begin it’s second round of machining.As we work to complete this rover, we invite students of all majors to assist us. We have many opportunities for you to grow and learn to be a better student and a member of society. Some of the things you will experience can be applicable to what you may experience in your future career.

If you would like to contribute to Ad Astra, head to our Join Us tab to learn how you can help!