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 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 For more information, visit URC online at:, on Facebook (, and on Twitter (

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!

Behind the Challenge - Creating the Equipment Servicing Lander

posted May 23, 2019, 3:21 AM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated May 23, 2019, 3:27 AM ]

In the months leading up to the 2018 University Rover Challenge (URC), the judges gave a separate challenge to the team from Protocase, long-time sponsor of URC. The challenge was simple but bold: design and build a piece of hardware for the URC2018 Equipment Servicing Task that fit the scope of the competition and scale of the rovers.

Protocase worked closely with judges to define requirements and better understand the range of robotic control teams would be expected to execute in the field. From the initial set of requirements, Protocase engineers unleashed their creative vision as the team iterated through CAD models.

By May, 2018 major components were heading into production, showcasing the myriad fabrication techniques at Protocase's disposal. By the end of the month the components of the rover, having undergone factory fit checks in Canada, had arrived in the desert of southern Utah ready for final assembly.  Within a matter of hours, the URC judges, having never before seen any of the components in person, were able to construct the new flagship assembly and unveil it for teams.

Watch more on this story below, but don't worry about that being the end of the story. After undergoing a few modifications in the off-season, the lander will be back for URC2019, being held May 30 - June 1, 2019 at the Mars Desert Research Station!

To see how Protocase can help turn your vision into reality in record time, visit

URC2019 Competition Schedule Posted

posted May 22, 2019, 8:34 PM by Kevin Sloan

The URC2019 Competition Schedule has been posted as of May 22, 2019. Please note that this schedule is subject to changes prior to the start of the competition. Visit the URC2019 Schedule page for more information.

Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission Course Posted

posted May 20, 2019, 6:48 PM by Kevin Sloan

The judges have released the course map and detailed instructions for the URC2019 Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission:

Honeybee Robotics Joins as Sponsor of URC2019

posted Apr 25, 2019, 7:25 PM by Kevin Sloan

The University Rover Challenge is excited to announce that Honeybee Robotics has joined as a sponsor for the 2019 competition! Honeybee Robotics has been actively involved in URC2019 through their participation in webinars for teams earlier this year, and will be serving as guest judges for the finals. Students will have the opportunity to network with company representatives at the URC Meet and Greet Hosted by Protocase the evening before competition starts.

Honeybee Robotics, a subsidiary of Ensign-Bickford Industries (EBI), has been a leader in research and development for applied robotics for over 35 years. Honeybee has three main offices across the United States, each focused on a unique aspect of the spacecraft mechanisms market. Their Longmont, CO headquarters specializes in production for a variety of satellite actuators, gimbals, and control avionics; their Brooklyn, NY office specializes in servicing robotics and terrestrial applications, including for the oil & gas and medical industries; and their Pasadena, CA office specializes in unique planetary exploration systems for missions through the solar system. Honeybee’s flagship programs have included the first mechanism to access the interior of a rock on another planet (the Rock Abrasion Tool on the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers) and the first hardware to ever touch extra-terrestrial ice (the Icy Soil Acquisition Device on the Phoenix Mars lander), among other systems in the critical sample handling chain on various NASA missions.
EBI shares a dedication to innovation and a commitment to technical expertise across all its business units. As a result, they are excited to support the development of the next generation of industry professionals by sponsoring URC 2019.

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