Rock of Ages – bESTology Week 11

Published by rrfenton on

Rock of Ages – bESTology Week 11



From the Paleolithic times (mining hematite) to the Stone Age then on to the Iron Age and now in the 21st Century, mining remains hard and hazardous work.

During this evolution the role of humans has changed, just as it has changed in industry.  Robots in factory settings often do the same repetitive tasks and are located away from the operator and power source. But frequently in mines, the robot works in high temperatures, salty and acidic water and exposed to rockfall and other hazardous conditions, and the operator is nearby, potentially exposing them to the hazards. Since the mining environment is not stable and is in a constant state of evolution, machines must be adaptive and flexible. There is a dire need for new innovative automated machinery and robots in the mining industry.

Developing such machines has been a challenge but with today’s technological advancements, the industry is close to taking a giant leap forward. The benefits of automated technology are numerous, i.e., improved safety, better fuel efficiency, increased productivity, improved working conditions. As commodity prices fall, mining companies are searching for new ways to reduce overhead costs. Robotics and automation may be the answer.

Let’s tunnel our way into a technologically advanced mine!


Data Mining: List various methods used to extract ore from the earth during the past centuries or decades. Compare and contrast these methods based on safety, manpower and technology.   Discuss how the actual labor needs performed by humans have and will be impacted when machines or robots perform specific mining tasks.

Challenge: Communication between the operator and robot is an obstacle in underground mining. Read Mining Robotics (above resource) and discuss how radio communication is a challenge due to rock conductivity and the geometry of mine voids. Determine whether Ethernet or WiFi can be used in mines and list the advantages and disadvantages of the newest technology of bidirectional through-the-rock communication.

Writing: Concentrating on mining automation during the 1900’s, research and develop a timeline outlining the past, present and future of mining automation. Focus on technological advancements and their impact on health, safety and productivity. Incorporate pictures and graphics. HINT: This would be a fantastic visual for your team’s exhibit booth for the upcoming Pay Dirt game – Where we have been and where we are going!

BEST Connection: Team discussion! Evaluate and determine the materials needed on an underground robot for each situation listed below. Predict how your BEST robot could maneuver or accomplish various tasks if any of these situations were on a BEST playing field. Determine if adequate BEST consumable kit items are provided or list new beneficial kit components.

  • Acidic and salty water
  • Geological and geotechnical mapping
  • Moving a rockfall
  • Search and rescue
  • Rock drilling
  • Explosive placement
  • Exploratory drilling
  • Developing underground roadways or tunnels
  • Extraction and haulage of broken ore
  • Backfill of extracted zones and rehabilitation

Reflection: bESTology Week 4, you were challenged to design a board game. Reflect on how that game would change depending on the century or decade it was based on.

Community Connection: Technology in your community! If your community has a mining equipment company, great! If not, invite your local car dealership to bring their newest high-tech car to your school. Ask for them to explain all of the technological advancements on the vehicle. Relate how these features could be incorporated on a real-world robot and their use inside of a mine, i.e., back-up sensors, airbags, traction.  Discuss how BEST teams could incorporate the latest safety features, not only for the robot but also for the operator.

Bloom’s Taxonomy: ask, compare, contrast, create, determine, develop, discuss, evaluate, incorporate, invite, list, predict, read, reflect, relate, research, writing

Workforce Skills: reading comprehension, active listening, critical thinking, speaking, active learning, writing, systems analysis, materials selection and evaluation, science, judgment and decision making

Download a PDF version of Rock of Ages – bESTology Week 11

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While the information contained in this website has been compiled from sources believed to be current and reliable, Friends of BEST in Alabama, Inc. (FBA) cannot be held responsible for any errors, omissions or content changes. Links made from this website are to reputable organizations at the time of posting. However, FBA cannot be held responsible for content on such linked websites. The existence of such links does not represent an endorsement by FBA of any views expressed or products or services offered.

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