The Unacceptable Risks have submitted an application to be a part of the 2018 HASP flight. High Altitude Student Platform (HASP) is a platform on which student teams can mount payloads in order for the apparatus to be launched into near space on a high-altitude balloon. These payloads are conceived of, designed, and built by students and can achieve a variety of goals. The HASP flight program allows students to participate in "space flight" research and independently develop their own experiments.
This year the Unacceptable Risks have devised a plan called Robotic Arm Manipulation and Materials Matching (RAM3) in which they design, build, and program a robotic arm that will perform basic kinetic tasks such as turning knobs, test buttons, and sealing and unsealing a Velcro strip. In addition to building the arm, the team has designed and must build and wire what they've dubbed the "Busy Box", which is the panel where all the test button, knobs, etc will be mounted as well as a frame that will house and protect the entire apparatus. If that wasn't enough, in order to make sure the arm can operate autonomously the students must program the arm to follow a computer vision program that will allow it to identify the necessary objects to complete its tasks.
This project is based partially on the work being done by NASA'S Satellite Servicing Projects Division where they are developing (slightly) larger robotic arms that will be sent to refuel and refurbish satellites in orbit. Currently there are only two satellites in orbit that can be serviced, but both NASA and private companies are moving towards designing reusable satellites, rather than abandoning one once its task is complete. The Unacceptable Risks' proposed arm differs slightly not only in scale, but also in the fact that the goal is to create an arm that functions autonomously whereas the SSPD version needs to be "driven".