Friday, June 14, 2013

University Rover Challenge 2013

Mike Stoltz, Mars Society's Director of Media & Public Relations posted a video of highlights from the University Rover Challenge 2013 held at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.

The University Rover Challenge challenges teams of science and engineering students to build a rover for a theoretical Mars mission. Each rover must meet a weight requirement and be remotely controlled by the students.

From May 30 to June 1, teams from the United States, Canada, Poland, and India competed on several courses meant to test their rover’s designs and technology in a quest for bragging rights and a winner-takes-all $5,000 cash prize. The challenges included navigating through gates over varied terrain, dropping science packages at designated sites, and excavating material that could be analyzed for signs of life.

Some teams were funded by large corporations like Boeing and Microsoft while others, like the SRM University team from India, had a total budget of $4,000. This included the cost of building the rover and travel for the more than half dozen of its members. While other teams’ rovers had state-of-the-art suspension and power systems, SRM showed up with a batch of radio controlled car batteries and electrical tape.

But overcoming these challenges was the point to the competition. If rovers are going to assist humans in the exploration of Mars, communication system and structural reliability will be critical. That, and probably a healthy dose of electrical tape.

This robot competition happened the week after Judd, Eric, Forest, and Scott finished their closing Mars NorCal engineering crew rotation and prepared our research rover Sandstorm for transport back to the Bay Area.