URC2020 Finals Cancelled In Response to COVID-19

posted Mar 10, 2020, 7:37 PM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated Mar 16, 2020, 6:49 AM ]

Updated March 16, 2020

Sunday evening, March 15, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidance recommending the cancellation or postponement of events consisting of more than 50 people in the United States. The URC2020 Finals are scheduled to take place in approximately 10 weeks, but would bring together more than 500 individuals from around the world. In light of this recent guidance, the University Rover Challenge and Mars Society have made the decision to cancel the URC2020 Finals.

This was a decision made with very heavy hearts, but the reality is that the latest CDC guidance made this an easy and obvious decision. As we have emphasized in each of our announcements regarding the COVID-19 situation, the number one priority of URC is the safety and well-being of our participants, volunteers, and the local community.

We will begin notifying teams of their System Acceptance Review scores throughout this week. For those of you who are facing restrictions or disruptions to your academic and living situations, we wish you luck in adjusting to your new routines. We also hope that you and your families stay healthy and safe during this situation. Please continue to follow the guidance of your universities and local communities, and practice prevention measures. Additional guidance for the response in the United States is also available from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html).

# # #

March 14, 2020 Update

Now as much as always, the number one priority of URC is the safety and well-being of our participants, volunteers, and the local community. At this point our primary concern is less about the situation in late May (which is still incredibly difficult to predict), and more about the situation over the next few weeks for teams who are facing university closures or other restrictions. URC is continuing to monitor the status at each of your universities (when information is publicly available). We anticipate additional announcements will be made by universities early next week, which we will be monitoring and factoring into our decisions.

Because this situation is so dynamic, we are not (as of today) in a position to make a rational and well-reasoned decision about the competition at the end of May. However, we will be delaying the announcement of System Acceptance Review results so that no teams will be rushing to make travel arrangement when so much uncertainty continues to exist.

We must also advise teams of the importance of following your university's and local officials' guidance! Your rover is important, but not as important as your own health, and the safety of your community. This is a public health situation - each of our individual actions have an impact on the world around us, and we each have a responsibility to act with a social conscience! Student Team Leads in particular have a responsibility to ensure your teams are following local guidance. If your university has restricted access to labs or large group meetings, you are responsible for ensuring your team follows these rules! Social distancing continues to be a critical component of the global response to COVID-19.

We will continue to be in touch with teams over the coming days and weeks as we navigate this situation. If you have any concerns at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to us directly. More information about COVID-19 and the response in the United States can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

# # #


Original Post (March  10, 2020)
As many of you are likely aware, there is currently a global health situation related to Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. URC and the Mars Society are continuing to monitor how this is developing, in addition to monitoring the guidance published by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The number one priority of URC is the safety and well-being of our participants, volunteers, and the local community. With that in mind, it is impossible for us to predict how the COVID-19 situation will evolve over the next 2.5 months. It would be premature for us to make any decisions at this point in time. We are planning for URC2020 to take place as scheduled at the end of May with the understanding that hard decisions may follow in the weeks to come. Updates will continue to be sent out via the URC-Announce email list and posted to the URC website. However, we encourage all of you to consult with your team members and your university about your team's decision to attend.
  • Is there a scenario in which URC2020 would reschedule?
    Unfortunately there is no foreseeable scenario in which URC2020 would reschedule. We are still planning to hold URC2020 on the original schedule, however a non-zero chance exists that it would be necessary to cancel the event at a point in the future. Any decisions will be made as early as practical and communicated promptly to teams.

    URC2020 has not been cancelled at this point in time!

  • How does this impact teams making travel arrangements?
    We expect to notify teams of the System Acceptance Review (SAR) results the week of March 16. Teams who qualify for the URC2020 Finals are strongly advised to purchase travel insurance and/or fully refundable reservations/tickets. URC is not liable for the cost of any travel cancellation of teams.

    Further, we do not yet know how the COVID-19 situation will impact the visa application process for international teams. While we provide letters of support to teams applying for visas, we cannot control the approval process, or travel restrictions from certain regions of the world.

    In the event that URC2020 still takes place, but isolated "hot zones" still exist around the world, teams will need to exercise caution with connecting flights and overall trip itineraries.

  • What else can teams/students do at this point?
    Follow the advice and guidance of your local officials and the World Health Organization. Most importantly, WASH YOUR HANDS and follow other common sense prevention measures!!!!

  • Where is more information available?
    More information about COVID-19 and the response in the United States can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html  

Webinar February 12: Preparing for the SAR, Q&A Updates with URC Judges

posted Feb 8, 2020, 9:17 AM by Kevin Sloan

URC and Protocase are excited to bring teams this webinar to help prepare for the SAR milestone!

February 12, 1pm MST (UTC-7) - Preparing for the System Acceptance Review and Q&A Updates with URC Judges

Join URC judges for a discussion of the System Acceptance Review process. This is your opportunity to hear the judges discuss what they are looking for when evaluating reports and videos during this down-selection milestone. Judges will also be providing an update on key questions and answers that have been posted since the initial release of the URC2020 rules in September, 2019.

Pre-registration is required! (Link sent to teams via the URC-Announce list.)


System Acceptance Review Requirements Posted for URC2020

posted Feb 2, 2020, 7:09 PM by Kevin Sloan

The updated requirements have been posted for the URC2020 System Acceptance Review! SAR packages must be submitted no later than February 28, 2020 at 11:59pm Mountain Standard Time (MST; UTC-7). SAR Packages must consist of a 6 page report and 5 minute video.

The SAR is a competitive milestone, meaning that teams will be judged against each other.  Only the top 36 teams will be accepted to compete in the URC2020 field competition.

Protocase Webinar for Teams (Jan 29)

posted Jan 22, 2020, 5:21 PM by Kevin Sloan

Topic: Intro to Protocase Sponsorship: How to Use Protocase's Custom Manufacturing Services

When: Jan 29, 2020 11:00am Mountain Standard Time (MST; UTC-7)

 

An overview for teams who are taking advantage of the 2020 URC sponsorship offer from Protocase. Registration instructions were sent to teams via the URC-Announce list.

This webinar will explain our capabilities as a custom manufacturer of enclosures, parts and components. We will also share some key design guidelines to keep in mind when designing and submitting your order. Working with Protocase will ensure that your rover’s precision-fabricated enclosures, parts and components are finished professionally and to your exact needs within 2-3 days. There will be an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the webinar.


Webinar Speakers

Dr. Douglas Milburn (Vice President, Co-Founder @Protocase)

Daniel Thistle (Engineering & Design Services @Protocase)

Protocase Returns as Sponsor for 2020 University Rover Challenge

posted Dec 2, 2019, 8:39 AM by Kevin Sloan

The Mars Society is proud to welcome Protocase back as a major sponsor of the world-renowned University Rover Challenge!

More than 14,000 engineers and designers in science and innovation around the world depend on Protocase for custom-manufacturing electronic enclosures, sheet metal parts, machined parts and components in two to three days, with no minimum orders.

Instead of using critical design time and effort taking off-the-shelf enclosures, parts and components and modifying them fit your Mars Rover design, all teams registered in the 2020 University Rover Challenge can harness Protocase's state-of-the-art manufacturing to have exactly what they need custom fabricated.

URC2020 Protocase Sponsorship 

The Protocase Sponsorship will be similar to the sponsorship offered in previous years:
  • Each URC team will receive $2,000 (USD) credit towards custom parts manufactured by Protocase for its Mars rover.
    Note: This $2,000 (USD) credit will NOT count towards a team's $18,000 rover budget limit (the URC Director has made the first $2,000 in sponsorship from Protocase an exception from the budget limit as outlined by Section 1.d.iii of the URC2020 Rules).
  • All teams will receive 50% discount on all custom parts manufactured beyond the $2,000 (USD) credit.
Check out The Journey of the University Rover Challenge, which documents the experience of URC teams who worked with Protocase.


How Teams Can Work With Protocase

Once a team is registered for the 2020 University Rover Challenge, team leads or other team members can email info@protocase.com to be connected with their designated Protocase account manager.

To learn more about Protocase's custom sheet metal fabrication and CNC Machining, check out the articles on their blog, or tech video playlist. Additional details regarding the Protocase manufacturing process and important design guidelines will be available to teams in the coming weeks.

Protocase and URC will also be teaming up again in 2020 to produce a webinar series featuring topics of interest and helpful educational topics related to URC! Stay tuned for more details.

Registration Open for URC2020!

posted Oct 7, 2019, 8:19 PM by Kevin Sloan

Registration for the 2020 University Rover Challenge is now open!  Teams have until November 1, 2019 to register.  Details can be found at the Team Info page.

2020 University Rover Challenge Rules Released

posted Sep 20, 2019, 4:57 PM by Kevin Sloan

The 2020 University Rover Challenge has officially begun with the release of the updated rules!


Registration for the 2020 competition will open in late September, 2019, and will close on November 1, 2019. All registered teams will be required to submit a Preliminary Design Review package by December 6, 2019, and a System Acceptance Review milestone will follow on February 28, 2020.  The top 36 teams will be selected to compete in the 2020 University Rover Challenge Finals, held May 28 - May 30, 2020 at the renowned Mars Desert Research Station.

Teams and rovers will compete in 4 missions in 2020: the Science Mission, Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission, Equipment Servicing Mission, and Autonomous Traversal Mission.  Despite similarities to the 2019 competition, there are several small changes throughout the rules, so teams are encouraged to review the rules closely and not rely on knowledge of the 2019 rules!

With the early milestones for URC2020, prospective teams are encouraged to start work as soon as possible! Good luck to all of the teams!

2019 University Rover Challenge Crowns New Champion

posted Jun 2, 2019, 6:45 PM by Kevin Sloan

The University Rover Challenge (URC) awarded the title of World’s Top Mars Rover to the IMPULS team from Kielce University of Technology in Poland on June 1. The 2019 rendition of URC hosted 34 rovers and more than 500 students from ten countries at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah. URC is an annual competition which asks college students to design and build the world’s best Mars rover.

The win for the IMPULS team, their first ever, comes after a strong third place finish in 2018. The rest of the 2019 podium featured returning teams with breakout performances, vaulting each into the top three for the first time in their respective teams’ histories. The Ryerson Rams Robotics (R3) team from Ryerson University in Canada finished in second place, and the Stanford Student Robotics team from Stanford University in the United States finished in third place.


The international robotics competition for college students, which is part of the Mars Society’s Rover Challenge Series, featured an elite field of teams vying to build the world’s best student-designed Mars rover. 84 teams from 13 countries took part in URC2019. Following a rigorous two-stage down-selection process 36 teams were invited to the field competition at MDRS. 34 teams from ten countries arrived with their rovers ready for the exciting challenges in the Utah desert.

Reliability and ingenuity were the keys to success for several teams throughout the 3 day event, as the field competed in four incredibly difficult and unique events (Science Mission, Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission, Equipment Servicing Mission, and Autonomous Traversal Mission). Each event tasked teams to deliver a complex system requiring a wide range of skills. The IMPULS team’s performance was highlighted by earning a perfect score in the Science Mission, in which the rover was tasked with analyzing several soil and rock samples, providing the team with the necessary data to deliver a field briefing to a judging panel of astrobiologists from NASA Ames Research Center. That performance ultimately secured the victory for IMPULS.

While the champions earned 362.9 points (out of 500), an astounding seven teams scored above 300 points, an impressive and distinguished benchmark. Those teams included four from the United States (Stanford Student Robotics, the Mars Rover Design Team from Missouri University of Science & Technology, Cornell Mars Rover from Cornell University, and the Michigan Mars Rover Team from the University of Michigan), two from Poland (IMPULS, and the 2018 champions, PCz Rover Team from Czestochowa University of Technology, and one from Canada (Ryerson Rams Robotics).

More than 1,000 students were involved in URC projects at their local universities during the 2018-2019 academic year. The rovers they built reflected the dedication, passion, and ingenuity of the student teams, a point that was not lost on the judges and industry representatives attending the event. URC was proud to welcome guests from Protocase, Honeybee Robotics, Microsoft, and NASA Ames Research Center who were able to help provide invaluable feedback to teams and help students see the connection between their current projects and future careers as industry leaders.

The scores for all teams can be found at http://urc.marssociety.org/home/about-urc/urc2019-scores. For more information, visit URC online at: http://urc.marssociety.org, on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/universityroverchallenge), and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/URConMars).

Congratulations to the URC2019 Podium

posted Jun 1, 2019, 8:21 PM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated Jun 1, 2019, 8:22 PM ]

Congratulations to all teams at URC2019, including our top 3:
1: IMPULS (Kielce University of Technology, Poland) - 362.9 points
2: Ryerson Rams Robotics (Ryerson University, Canada) - 329.5 points
3: Stanford Student Robotics (Stanford University, USA) - 323.2 points

All of the URC2019 scores have been posted!

Important Weather Announcement

posted May 24, 2019, 7:14 PM by Kevin Sloan

Teams should be advised that very unseasonable weather is impacting southern Utah, and may continue to be of concern through URC2019. Significant rain has made off-road conditions extremely difficult, and forecasts continue to underestimate the amount of rainfall. Safety is the top priority at URC; teams are encouraged to be prepared and use good judgement.
  • Temperatures have been much cooler than usual - be prepared for especially cool mornings (by URC standards)!
  • Due to heavy rainfall, unpaved roads and trails are extremely muddy or even impassable. Teams should not drive off-road at all prior to URC! Be mindful of flash flooding in the desert.
  • Teams may not visit MDRS prior to URC.
  • 4-Wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles are strongly encouraged.  If conditions continue to be bad during URC, judges may restrict vehicle traffic to only 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles.
  • While the judges and URC team are committed to providing teams the best experience possible, safety will always come first! If conditions impact URC's schedule or competition sites, contingency options may be enacted. Teams should be prepared to be flexible.
It is still too early to predict exactly what the conditions will be during URC. Conditions may improve, allowing URC to proceed without any impact. Until then, stay safe and plan ahead!

1-10 of 104