The 2013 University Rover Challenge(URC) concluded Saturday evening by crowning the third two-time champion in its seven year history. The Hyperion Team from Bialystok University of Technology (Poland) impressed the judges early on during the Sample Return Task, and only improved from there. They finished with a URC record 493 points (out of 500 possible), outscoring the nearest competitor by 91 points.
URC is a Mars Society-organized international robotics competition for college students who design and build Mars rovers. The annual event is held at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah, home to leading Mars exploration research.
The Scorpio 3 Team from the Wrocław University of Technology (Poland) finished in second place, their highest ever placing, with 401 points. Brigham Young University (BYU - USA) stood on the podium for the second straight year, finishing in third place with 350 points.
In this year of records, URC2013 saw its highest ever number of registrants (15), largest field of teams to make it to MDRS with working rovers (10), and its first team from Asia (SRM University, India). The Hyperion Team continued on this theme, becoming the first team in URC’s history to achieve a perfect score (100 points) in every task involving the rover (they were also awarded 93 points for the Presentation Task).
“Both the Hyperion Team and their rover worked flawlessly in the field,” noted Kevin Sloan, URC Director. “The judges could barely keep up with the rover as it darted effortlessly across the arduous terrain, and the students operated with the cool and calm confidence of a champion.”
The Terrain Traversing Task, a new event for 2013, provided the most excitement for teams and judges alike. Rovers had to race across a variety of terrain through a series of five gates. After starting with a pass through soft, sandy ground to Gate 1, rovers has to make their way across a lane of 20-30 centimeter (8-12 inch) rocks and through Gate 2. Another rocky pass through Gate 3 lead to increasingly steep climbs through the fourth and fifth gates. While several teams made the climb to Gate 4, most lost traction and slid down the steep hillside. Only Hyperion’s rover was able to climb through the final gate during the competition.
Scorpio 3’s unique rover design featured an articulated chassis that helped it maneuver with ease across each of the task sites. The platform’s low center of gravity and overall stability also helped it recover from a nerve-wracking slide down the final hill of the Terrain Traversing Task.
SRM University impressed the judges with the scientific analysis they performed during the Sample Return Task. Before traveling to the United States, they calibrated their equipment using soil samples from extreme locations in their home country. Although their robotic arm was unable to retrieve a sample, BYU also showed off unique capabilities in this task, employing advanced laser-induced fluorescent imaging methods to detect signs of life.
This year’s field of competitors also featured previous two-time champions from Oregon State University (USA) and York University (Canada), as well as a veteran team from Cornell University. Three teams competed at URC for the first time from Missouri University of Science and Technology (USA), the University of Washington, and Rzeszow University of Technology (Poland).
To watch a video showing this year's URC event, please click here. For more details about the URC, please contact Kevin Sloan.
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