Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021 Gets Teams Roving

posted Jun 8, 2021, 8:02 PM by Kevin Sloan

Although the COVID-19 global health pandemic forced the cancellation of the URC2021 Finals, many teams and their rovers were still anxious to test their capabilities and showcase their hard work. The URC staff developed a special event just for this situation: the Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021.

The Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021 offered teams the opportunity to build courses on their own campuses, and compete remotely with judges and fans tuning in online from around the world. Three URC missions were modified for this format: the Equipment Servicing Mission, Autonomous Navigation Mission, and Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission. 13 teams from 5 countries were able to compete June 3-6, with all sessions live streamed (and now archived!) via the URC YouTube Channel.

Each team's competition experience was unique - operating on test hardware that they built, and from their own campuses. Judges were fortunate enough to go on a virtual world tour, with the opportunity to see each team operating in their home environments. While the virtual event was no replacement for the URC Finals, this was a tremendous opportunity to see passionate students and their rovers hard at work again!

Equipment Servicing Mission
The Equipment Servicing Mission required teams to perform a series of dexterous manipulation tasks, operating equipment that is typically designed for a human. This includes opening a drawer, placing a toolbox in that drawer, and closing it; typing a command on a keyboard; and turning a screw to tighten it. MIST Mongol Barota from the Military Institute of Science & Technology in Bangladesh achieved the only perfect score of this mission.

MIST Mongol Barota100
Pharaohs Team90
Husky Robotics42
BRACU Mongol-Tori41
Wisconsin Robotics29
AGH Space Systems25
PCz Rover Team23
Sooner Rover Team17
Rose-Hulman Rover Team15
Rover Team0
OzU Rover Team0

Autonomous Navigation Mission
For the Autonomous Navigation Mission rovers are required to navigate to a series of visual markers, without human operator control. This complex mission has traditionally been one of the hardest for teams, requiring the development of autonomy software that fuses multiple sensor inputs. For the virtual version, teams provided the coordinates of an open field on their campus; judges would send detailed instructions to an independent "post placer" responsible for setting up the course. Rover operators would receive a minimal set of approximate coordinates to help guide the rover. While teams did struggle in this mission, BRACU Mongol-Tori from BRAC University in Bangladesh was able to successfully reach an impressive 3 gates.

BRACU Mongol-Tori30
Pharaohs Team10
Rover Team5
AGH Space Systems0
Husky Robotics0
MIST Mongol Barota0
OzU Rover Team0
PCz Rover Team0
Rose-Hulman Rover Team0
Sooner Rover Team0
Wisconsin Robotics0

Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission
The Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission typically sends rovers racing around the extreme terrain of the Mars Desert Research Station, searching for supplies to deliver to astronauts. While teams couldn't replicate this extreme terrain on their local campuses, judges chose a series of simplified tasks meant to stress rovers' ability to perform basic operations that could support an astronaut. This included carrying and accurately delivery both large and small packages; ascending a steep incline; and surviving a staggering 1 meter vertical descent. Multiple teams were able to complete 5 of the 6 tasks, but only Husky Robotics from the University of Washington in the United States was able to survive the harrowing descent, being rewarded with the only perfect score of this mission.

Husky Robotics100
MIST Mongol Barota80
Wisconsin Robotics80
AGH Space Systems60
PCz Rover Team60
Pharaohs Team60
BRACU Mongol-Tori52
Sooner Rover Team24
Rover Team6
Rose-Hulman Rover Team2
OzU Rover Team0

Looking Ahead
The URC judges and staff are hopeful that 2022 will see a return of the URC Finals at the Mars Desert Research Station, the greatest rover playground on the planet! Until then, the judges and staff hope that everybody stays safe and healthy!

Watch the Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021 June 3-6

posted Jun 2, 2021, 7:47 PM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated Jun 5, 2021, 4:09 AM ]

The University Rover Challenge is excited to host 15 teams from 7 countries as they compete in 3 missions live from their home campuses! All of the rover action will be live streamed on the URC YouTube Channel, June 3-6.

Teams' competition times will be split into two separate sessions. The first session will consist of the Equipment Servicing Mission and the Autonomous Navigation Mission. The second session will consist of the Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission.

Competition Schedule
All times are MDT (UTC-6; officially known as Mountain Daylight Time, but we prefer to think of it as Mars Desert Time!)

Thursday, June 3
03:00 - Pharaohs Team - Session 1
17:00 - Sooner Rover Team - Session 1
20:00 - MIST Mongol Barota - Session 1

Friday, June 4
00:00 - Pharaohs Team - Session 2
04:00 - AGH Space Systems - Session 1
08:00 - NUROVER - Session 1
10:00 - AGH Space Systems - Session 2
11:30 - OzU Rover Team - Session 1
13:30 - NUROVER - Session 2
15:00 - Rose-Hulman Rover Team - Session 1
17:00 - Sooner Rover Team - Session 2
22:00 - MIST Mongol Barota - Session 2

Saturday, June 5
04:00 - OzU Rover Team - Session 2
06:00 - PCz Rover Team - Session 1
08:00 - Mountaineers - Session 1
10:00 - No Session [Space Concordia Robotics has withdrawn due to technical issues.]
12:00 - Rose-Hulman Rover Team - Session 2
14:00 - Husky Robotics - Session 1
18:00 - No Session [Monash Nova Rover has been forced to withdraw due to local COVID-19 lockdown protocol.]
02:00 - BRACU Mongol-Tori - Session 1 [Rescheduled due to weather and safety.]
23:00 - No Session [Monash Nova Rover has been forced to withdraw due to local COVID-19 lockdown protocol.]

Sunday, June 6
00:00 - BRACU Mongol-Tori - Session 2 [Rescheduled due to weather and safety.]
06:00 - PCz Rover Team - Session 2
08:00 - Mountaineers - Session 2
09:30 - Wisconsin Robotics - Session 1
11:00 - Rover Team - Session 1
12:45 - No Session [Space Concordia Robotics has withdrawn due to technical issues.]
14:00 - Wisconsin Robotics - Session 2
15:30 - Rover Team - Session 2
17:00 - Husky Robotics - Session 2

Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021 Rules Posted

posted Apr 24, 2021, 3:28 PM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated Apr 24, 2021, 3:35 PM ]

Although the COVID-19 global pandemic forced the cancellation of the URC2021 Finals, the URC team is excited to announce the Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021! Teams will have the opportunity to compete in three missions: the Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission, the Equipment Servicing Mission, and the Autonomous Navigation Mission.

The Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021 will be held June 3-5, 2021, with teams competing at their local campuses or communities. The rules and instructions are posted publicly so that any team may participate, however only teams who placed in the top 36 of the URC2021 System Acceptance Review (SAR) will be scored live by judges. The rules are posted here.

This virtual event does not take the place of the URC2021 Finals, but is being offered as a fun opportunity for teams to test their rovers and share their experiences with the global Rover Challenge Series community!

Statement Regarding Cancellation of URC2021 Finals

posted Mar 25, 2021, 7:50 PM by Kevin Sloan

This year and every year, the University Rover Challenge aims to provide the best possible educational experience to students, while ensuring the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone involved. While we are encouraged by the current COVID-19 public health metrics and increase in global vaccine distribution, conditions are not at a point that permit large-scale events requiring travel of geographically dispersed groups. Unfortunately, due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the URC2021 Finals have been cancelled.

We are currently assessing the feasibility of a virtual competition in lieu of the URC2021 Finals and will communicate details with teams soon. Results from the System Acceptance Review will also be announced in the coming days.

The URC judges and staff admire the perseverance of teams who have found ways to adapt to conditions over the past year and have worked hard to be prepared for URC2021. We have been watching the conditions closely in the hopes that an in-person Finals would be feasible. Much to our disappointment, we will have to wait for the URC2022 Finals to see teams and their rovers in person.

System Acceptance Review Requirements Posted

posted Feb 7, 2021, 8:09 PM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated Feb 7, 2021, 8:20 PM ]

At this time in early 2021 the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the majority of URC teams. The foremost priority for URC remains the health, safety, and wellbeing of our teams. Teams are urged to follow all applicable health and safety guidelines, and not take unnecessary risks if you are working on your rover.

System Acceptance Review: The System Acceptance Review (SAR) will take place as planned. Regardless of the fate of the URC2021 Finals, the SAR is an invaluable part of URC's educational process. Updated requirements have been posted to the System Acceptance Review page, and include guidance on adjustments that should be made based on the impact of COVID-19.
  • The SAR Report will include a 7th page that answers key questions about COVID-19 impacts (see details on the template - accessible from the SAR requirements).
  • Teams may address the SAR based on a 2-year project life cycle. Teams may take credit for design, production, and testing that occurred as part of URC2020 (as far back as August, 2019). Teams should clearly state when they are relying on the prior year’s accomplishments.
  • Teams may reuse any video that applies to the current design that was recorded as part of URC2020 (as far back as August, 2019). Teams should clearly label or caption any video that was recorded prior to September, 2020.

URC2021 Finals: We anticipate making a decision regarding the URC2021 Finals in March, 2021 (after the SAR deadline). Due to the highly dynamic nature of this pandemic it is difficult to predict what the conditions will allow in June. Please understand that planning factors can, and will, change, but our decisions will always be guided by health and safety considerations.

Protocase Returns as URC Sponsor, Hosts Webinar

posted Feb 6, 2021, 6:29 AM by Kevin Sloan   [ updated Feb 6, 2021, 6:30 AM ]

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 2021 University Rover Challenge can harness Protocase's state-of-the-art manufacturing to have exactly what they need custom fabricated.

URC2021 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 URC2021 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
Protocase has developed a tutorial webinar that explains the manufacturing process, and how teams can work with Protocase. This link has been sent directly to teams. Teams can also 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

URC2021 Registration Opens!

posted Oct 6, 2020, 7:22 PM by Kevin Sloan

Registration for the 2021 University Rover Challenge is now open through October 28, 2020! Details and a link to the registration form are available at the URC Team Info page.

Teams will also be required to pay a $38 (USD) application fee, however due to the timing of the 23rd Annual International Mars Society Convention we have not yet started accepting payments. We anticipate providing teams with application fee payment details no later than October 19, and will allow teams until November 4 to submit payments.

2021 University Rover Challenge Rules Released

posted Aug 25, 2020, 8:01 PM by Kevin Sloan

The University Rover Challenge is excited to announce the release of the rules for URC2021!

Registration for the 2021 competition will open in September, 2020, and will close on October 28, 2020. All registered teams will be required to submit a Preliminary Design Review package by December 4, 2020, and a System Acceptance Review milestone will follow on March 5, 2021.  The top 36 teams will be selected to compete in the 2021 University Rover Challenge Finals, held June 3-5, 2021 at the renowned Mars Desert Research Station.

The rules for 2021 are identical to the rules from the 2020 competition (which was unfortunately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Teams and rovers will compete in 4 missions in 2021: the Science Mission, Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission, Equipment Servicing Mission, and Autonomous Traversal Mission.

It is important to note that URC2021 is being planned and will occur in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. At the time that the rules were published it is uncertain what the state of the pandemic will be in June, 2021 for the URC2021 Finals. As such, it is possible that the URC2021 Finals may need to be modified, or even cancelled, based on conditions at that time. Teams should continue to monitor the URC website (including the COVID-19 page) for updates.

Announcing the URC2020 Finals Qualifiers

posted May 1, 2020, 8:49 AM by Kevin Sloan

Unfortunately the URC2020 Finals were cancelled due to the impacts of COVID-19, but not before teams were able to submit their System Acceptance Review packages. While there will be no final scores or rankings for URC2020, we are proud to announce the 36 teams whose scores would have qualified for the URC2020 Finals!

2020 was another extremely competitive year for URC, with 93 teams originally competing, and 68 teams submitting SAR Packages. This year the threshold to finish in the top 36 teams of the SAR and qualify for the URC2020 Finals was 81 points.

Congratulations to our URC2020 Finals Qualifiers, as well as all of the teams for their hard work and ambition throughout this project!

Team Name University Affiliation Country SAR Score
Michigan Mars Rover Team University of Michigan - Ann Arbor United States 96
Stanford Student Robotics Stanford University United States 94
BRACU Mongol-Tori BRAC University Bangladesh 93
PCz Rover Team Czestochowa University of Technology Poland 93
ITU Rover Team ITU Robotics Student Club Turkey 93
Mars Rover Design Team Missouri University of Science and Technology United States 93
MARS ROVER MANIPAL Manipal Academy of Higher Education India 92
Team Anveshak Indian Institute of Technology Madras India 91
AGH Space Systems AGH University of Science and Technology Poland 90
Team RoverX Vellore Institute of Technology-Vellore India 90
KNR Rover Team Warsaw University of Technology Poland 89
OSURC Mars Rover Oregon State Univeristy United States 89
Monash Nova Rover Monash University Australia 89
Project Scorpio Wroclaw University of Science and Technology Poland 88
Cornell Mars Rover Cornell University United States 88
USU Mars Rover Team Utah State University United States 87
University of Warsaw Rover Team University of Warsaw Poland 87
BYU Mars Rover Brigham Young University United States 86
IMPULS Kielce University of Technology Poland 86
Space Concordia Robotics Concordia University Canada 85
UW Rover Team University of Waterloo Canada 85
Wisconsin Robotics University of Wisconsin-Madison United States 84
Queen's Space Engineering Team Queen's University Canada 84
Northeastern University Mars Rover Team Northeastern University United States 84
Continuum University of Wroclaw Poland 84
Husky Robotics University of Washington United States 83
SKA Robotics Warsaw University of Technology Poland 83
Pharaohs Team Military Technical College Egypt 83
SC Robotics Saddleback College United States 83
Legendary Rover Team Rzeszow University of Technology Poland 82
Yonder Dynamics University of California: San Diego United States 82
SEDS-VIT Vellore Institute of Technology India 82
Argo Bialystok University of Technology Poland 81
OzU Rover Ozyegin University Turkey 81
Sooner Rover University of Oklahoma United States 81

# # #

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 (

# # #

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:

# # #

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:  

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