2019 University Rover Challenge Rules Released

posted Sep 17, 2018, 6:06 PM by Kevin Sloan

The 2019 University Rover Challenge has officially begun with the release of the updated rules!

Registration for the 2019 competition will open in late September, 2018, and will close on November 2, 2018. All registered teams will be required to submit a Preliminary Design Review package by November 30, 2018, and a System Acceptance Review milestone will follow in March, 2019.  The top 36 teams will be selected to compete in the 2019 University Rover Challenge Finals, held May 30 - June 1, 2019 at the renowned Mars Desert Research Station.

Teams and rover will compete in 4 missions in 2019: the Science Mission, Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission, Equipment Servicing Mission, and Autonomous Traversal Mission.  Despite similarities to the 2018 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 2018 rules!

With the early milestones for URC2019, prospective teams are encouraged to start work as soon as possible! Good luck to all of the teams!

University Rover Challenge Title Returns to Poland

posted Jun 3, 2018, 5:33 PM by Kevin Sloan

The University Rover Challenge (URC) awarded the title of World’s Top Mars Rover to the PCz Rover Team from the Czestochowa University of Technology in Poland on June 2.  The 2018 rendition of URC hosted 35 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 defending champions from 2017, the Mars Rover Design Team from the Missouri University of Science & Technology in the United States, turned in an impressive performance, finishing in second place.  This marks the third time the team has finished on the podium at URC.  The IMPULS team from the Kielce University of Technology in Poland finished close behind in third place to round out the podium.

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. A record 95 teams from 12 countries took part in URC2018. Following a rigorous two-stage down-selection process 36 teams were invited to the field competition at MDRS. 35 teams from ten countries arrived with their rovers ready for the exciting challenges in the Utah desert.

For its twelfth year URC continued the same tasks as in previous years (Sample Cache Task, Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task, Equipment Servicing Task, and the Autonomous Traversal Task), but challenged teams with harder versions of several.  The most exciting task of 2018 proved to be the Equipment Servicing Task, which featured a custom lander designed and built by URC sponsor Protocase.  Teams and their rovers were required to load a canister into the lander, and conduct a series of complex procedures required to “launch” this lander from Mars back to Earth.

The PCz Rover Team capped their victory with a dramatic performance late Saturday on the Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task, earning the only perfect score of the competition in that task.  During this task rovers were required to navigate across the arduous terrain surrounding MDRS to retrieve tools and deliver them to simulated astronauts in the field.  The last objective of the task required teams to ascend a steep and narrow ridgeline, bordered by harrowing drops on either side, to deliver a tool to the final astronaut.  This objective had already sent three previous teams either rolling or sliding off the side of the ridgeline to varying degrees of rover damage.  PCz’s unique frame began to slip as it neared the astronaut, but came to a rest with just inches to spare, allowing them to deploy the required tool and securing their championship performance.

More than 1000 students were involved in URC projects at their local universities during the 2017-18 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.

The scores for all teams can be found at http://urc.marssociety.org/home/about-urc/urc2018-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).

Schedules, Scores, and the EST Preview

posted May 26, 2018, 2:22 PM by Kevin Sloan

A draft of the detailed task schedule for teams has now been posted to the URC2018 Schedule page.

The URC2018 Scores page has now been updated with the System Acceptance Review scores, the first 100 possible points of the competition!

Protocase and URC are excited to provide this sneak peak of the URC2018 Equipment Servicing Task:

URC2018 Equipment Servicing Task Preview

Announcing the URC Meet & Greet Hosted by Protocase, and Rover Rodeo

posted May 14, 2018, 7:34 PM by Kevin Sloan

We are excited to announce the URC Meet & Greet Hosted by Protocase, and Rover Rodeo, as part of URC2018!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018
  • 5:00pm - 8:00pm: URC Meet & Greet Hosted by Protocase at the Hanksville Emergency Services Building
  • 6:30pm - 8:00pm: URC Rover Rodeo at the Hanksville Arena - Open to the Public!!

URC Meet and Greet Hosted by Protocase
Please join URC and Protocase for a fun event to kick everything off on Wednesday, May 30, 5:00pm - 8:00pm, following the Check-In period.  Enjoy a BBQ provided by Duke's Slickrock & Grill, and meet with industry representatives from Honeybee Robotics and Microsoft (bring your resumes!).  This event will take place at the Hanksville Emergency Services building.

Rover Rodeo
Get ready for the competition, and get your rover's "shake-down" testing completed at this new and exciting event!  URC will be taking over the arena in Hanksville, located next to the Emergency Services building, and turning it over to the rovers.  The space will be available to teams to conduct testing starting at 4:00pm.  At 6:30pm we will begin a series of informal and fun races on a simple obstacle course.  Don't worry about any 1 meter drops here - the real rover-breaking competition starts the next day!

A few notes about the Rover Rodeo:
  • This is not a mandatory event, but will be a fun opportunity to ensure your rover is competition-ready.
  • This is a collaborative event.  Bring tools to share with other teams, and help everyone get their rovers ready!
  • URC will not be enforcing any communications restrictions, however United States Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations still apply.
  • This isn't a competition event, so tethered operations, or directly following your rover, are all allowed.
  • Teams will neither be penalized, nor receive any points, in the actual URC standings.
  • We will be opening this event to the public!

URC2018 Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task - Course Posted

posted May 13, 2018, 9:16 PM by Kevin Sloan

The judges have released the course map and detailed instructions for the URC2018 Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task:

36 Teams Advance to URC2018 Finals

posted Mar 22, 2018, 4:57 AM by Kevin Sloan

From a record field of 95 teams, the University Rover Challenge (URC) has announced the 36 teams from 10 countries who have been selected to compete May 31 - June 2 at the Mars Desert Research Station.  See the video announcement below, thanks to Protocase!

Teams previously passed a Preliminary Design Review milestone, and most recently passed an extremely competitive System Acceptance Review milestone.  Rovers competing at the URC finals will face four extremely difficult tasks for their Mars rovers: the Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task, the Equipment Servicing Task, the Autonomous Traversal Task, and the Science Cache Task.  These events challenge teams to design and build highly capable robotic systems able to traverse extreme and aggressive terrain, perform maintenance on critical field equipment, and conduct meaningful field science.

Now in its 12th year, URC has challenged hundreds of teams and thousands of students through this unique multi-disciplinary educational event.  In recent years URC's parent organization, the Mars Society, has formed the Rover Challenge Series, which features similar competitions around the world aimed at developing the next generation of talented and ambitious leaders in engineering, science, and space exploration.

Protocase Returns as Sponsor for 2018 University Rover Challenge

posted Oct 30, 2017, 3:44 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 12,000 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 2018 University Rover Challenge can harness Protocase's state-of-the-art manufacturing to have exactly what they need custom fabricated.
URC2018 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 $17,500 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.j.iii of the URC2018 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 2018 University Rover Challenge, a Protocase account manager will reach out to the team leader to make introductions and confirm contact information.
Protocase (as well as other presenting sponsors) will be holding a webinar series in early 2018. This webinar is an important step for all teams, as it will feature an overview of Protocase's manufacturing processes and important design guidelines for sheet metal fabrication and CNC machining. There will be an opportunity to ask questions as well.
Details on the webinar will be shared with all registered teams by URC staff within a few weeks.

Registration Now Open for URC2018

posted Oct 2, 2017, 6:54 PM by Kevin Sloan

Registration for the 2018 University Rover Challenge is now open!  Teams have until November 3, 2017 to register.  Details can be found at the Team Info page.

2018 University Rover Challenge Rules Released

posted Sep 11, 2017, 7:31 PM by Kevin Sloan

The University Rover Challenge has officially released the rules for the 2018 competition!

Click here for the URC2018 Rules

Registration for the 2018 competition will open in late September, 2017, and will close on November 3, 2017. Similar to previous years, teams will participate in a competitive down-selection process. The major milestones have been renamed for 2018 to better emphasize their place in the design life cycle, including a Preliminary Design Review due on December 3, 2017.

The four competition tasks for 2018 are updated versions of the 2017 tasks: the Science Cache Task, Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task, Equipment Servicing Task, and Autonomous Traversal Task. There are several small changes throughout the rules, so teams are encouraged to review the rules closely and not rely on knowledge of the 2017 rules!

With the earlier milestones for URC2018, prospective teams are encouraged to start work as soon as possible! Good luck to all of the teams!

URC Announcement Regarding Final Standings

posted Jun 20, 2017, 5:25 AM by Kevin Sloan

Immediately following the release of the final scores for the 2017 University Rover Challenge (URC2017), the judges were notified of a potential error in the points recorded for the Continuum team (Uniwersytet Wrocławski; Poland) on the Autonomous Traversal Task.  The judges awarded Continuum 70 points for successfully completing five gates; however, the team indicated that their rover had successfully reached the sixth gate during their allotted time.

An initial review of the judges’ field notes was consistent with the 70 points awarded, although in the days following URC2017 judges were able to locate video taken during Continuum’s performance on the Autonomous Traversal Task.  This video review confirmed that Continuum did successfully reach the sixth gate, and earned 85 points during this task.  As a result, Continuum’s total score changed to 336.3, which earns them the second place position at URC2017.

During this detailed review, judges noted the incredibly close margins between the second and fifth place teams (just 21 points of separation).  The URC judges are pleased to announce that they have expanded the podium for URC2017 to the top five teams.  The PCz Rover Team (Częstochowa University of Technology; Poland) finished in third place, BYU Mars Rover (Brigham Young University; USA) finished in fourth, and Raptors (Lodz University of Technology; Poland) finished in fifth place.  The Mars Rover Design Team (Missouri University of Science and Technology; USA) became the first American team to win the competition since 2010.

“On behalf of the University Rover Challenge, I first want to apologize to the teams impacted by this issue,” commented Kevin Sloan, URC Director.  “Our entire judging team takes the scoring process very seriously, however we allowed an inadvertent accounting error to occur which affected the final results.  We have already begun discussions on process changes which we can implement to mitigate similar issues from occurring in the future.”

It is the policy of URC that all judges’ decisions in the field are final.  This case was particularly unique in that the Continuum team was told in the field that they earned 85 points, but the final score only reflected 70 points.  The Continuum team’s attempt on the Autonomous Traversal Course took place in the middle of the final day of the competition, as judges balanced long and busy days with incredibly hot weather conditions.  URC2017 hosted a record 35 teams and more than 500 students.

Updated final scores for 2017 can be found at http://urc.marssociety.org/home/about-urc/urc2017-scores.

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