System Acceptance Review

Updated for URC2024!

System Acceptance Review (SAR) packages must be submitted no later than March 1, 2024 at 11:59pm Mountain Standard Time (MST; UTC-7).

The SAR is a competitive milestone, meaning that teams will be judged against each other.  Only the top 36 teams will qualify for the URC2024 Finals.*

Format and Submission Details

SAR packages shall consist of two components: a SAR Report and SAR Video.  They must be submitted no later than March 1, 2024 at 11:59pm Mountain Standard Time (MST; UTC-7) via this online form.

All content (including, but not limited to, text, images, video, and audio) not created by the submitting team must be credited or cited appropriately. This includes pictures of parts taken from a manufacturer's website. Plagiarism concerns are taken very seriously, and are grounds for disqualification.

2024 SAR Packages must be original products. Teams cannot reuse prior years' reports or videos.

SAR Report

SAR Reports are limited to 6 pages of text and graphics (images, figures, etc.).  A cover page is optional, and is not included in the 6 page limit, but may only include the report title, team name, contact information (student team lead and an optional point of contact), etc. (if not included on a cover page, this information must appear in a header at the top of the first page).  Pages should be in letterpaper size (8.5 in. x 11 in.), with margins no smaller than 1 in. (2.5 cm), text in Calibri 11 point font (or similarly sized font), and single spaced.  Electronic submissions are required in *.pdf file format only.

Page 5 of the SAR Report is required to provide an up-to-date Gantt chart and team budget.  The Gantt chart and team budget may only be provided on Page 5; and Page 5 may contain no other information.

Page 6 of the SAR Report is required to be the SAR Science Plan.  The SAR Science Plan may only be discussed on Page 6; and Page 6 may contain no other information.

Judges will not consider any content after the end of the sixth page (not including cover page), regardless of the situation or content remaining on additional pages.

Unless provided for citation, links to external files should not be provided. Judges will not consider any information from teams beyond the report and video limits specified here.

SAR Video

SAR Videos are limited to a single video that is no longer than 5 minutes (5:00).  Teams may use any combination of video techniques - to include individuals talking, rover demonstrations, voiced-over-slides, etc.  However, audio quality of any voice used is absolutely imperative, even at the expense of video quality.  Do not include background music that is loud or makes voices hard to hear and understand. The use of captions/subtitles is encouraged, especially for non-native English speakers.  Videos must be submitted via a link to YouTube.  Videos must be publicly accessible and searchable.  By submitting the SAR Video, teams acknowledge that some or all of their video may be utilized by URC for promotion purposes.

Judges will not consider any content after 5:00 in the video, regardless of the situation or content remaining.

SAR Report Content

Pages 1-4 of the SAR Report should address (at a minimum) the required elements of information below.  Teams are reminded that this is a competitive milestone; simply stating that the elements below have been addressed is insufficient.  Teams are expected to demonstrate why their system is unique and exceptional.

The judges do not require a detailed discussion on the merits of 6061 series Aluminum or a description of why rovers are important on Mars.  Teams are expected to use the space provided to make a compelling case to judges while still addressing the following points.

Core Rover Systems: Address the core systems of your rover, communication systems, and command and control systems, with an emphasis on the subsystems that are either high-risk or unique.  Teams should provide a system-level context that describes the overall design, and thoughtful systems engineering approach.

Approach to Competition Missions: Teams should describe their systematic approach and subsystems developed to complete the individual competition missions (with the exception of the Science Mission, which will be addressed in the SAR Science Plan).

Testing and Operations: Describe the testing that your team has completed to date, and your plan for testing prior to the competition.  Teams should address how they will conduct testing at the component/subsystem level, system level, and operational testing/training.

Page 5 of the SAR Report is required to provide an up-to-date budget table (including all project income and expenses), plus a Gantt chart (including at a minimum the period September 1, 2023 through June 1, 2024).

Page 6 of the SAR Report should consist exclusively of the SAR Science Plan, which should describe the test(s) designed to take place on-board the rover,  including the sample cache system and the on-board instrument(s)/method(s) of choice.**

SAR Video Content

The primary intent of the video is to demonstrate rover progress/capabilities, and also expand upon/complement the report. Teams will be scored/evaluated on their demonstrated progress in each of the 4 competition missions. Historical data has shown that teams who cannot demonstrate by this deadline rover functionality on several of the mission requirements (e.g., remote command and control, traversing uneven terrain, picking up a 5 kg weight, flipping a switch) are unlikely to be judged favorably.

Teams are reminded that the judges are professionals with technical backgrounds, and decades of combined experience in evaluating student rover projects.  Videos that focus on an overly embellished marketing format (e.g. a “Kickstarter style” video) while failing to provide meaningful content will not be judged favorably.  Teams are encouraged to demonstrate their rover in a variety of situations that demonstrate readiness.

Video Dates

*It is anticipated that only 36 teams will pass the SAR milestone and be invited to compete in the URC2024 Finals, although the judges may elect to change this number due to a variety of factors.  This limit is due to logistical, timing, environmental and staffing constraints, and is required to maintain the quality of the competition for competing teams.  There will not be a stand-by list in the event of teams withdrawing prior to the competition.

**In the SAR Science Plan teams are required to identify any hazardous materials planned for use. Teams who are accepted to compete in the URC2024 finals will subsequently be required to explain how the hazardous materials will be used, as well as the safety measures being implemented (to include transportation to, and storage at, URC, as well as disposal).  Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) systems with integrated safety measures from the original manufacturer will be looked upon more favorably by the judges and staff from a safety standpoint.


Teams may be penalized for violating the format requirements, failing to provide proper citations, or other critical issues as assessed by the judges.


Q1) Can we make changes to the rover after the SAR?
The question is good because for an actual mission such changes would not generally be allowed. However, for URC you may make changes to your rover at any point, although during the competition you will have to watch your weight and budget limits if adding or modifying components.

Q2) In the budget section of the SAR report, should we talk about ALL of our expenses, or just those that count towards our $22,000 on-rover budget? Should we include the total cost of the rover from the previous year that we are re-using even though those expenses have already been covered?
Teams should refer to the Budget Tables and Gantt Charts page. More specifically teams should demonstrate that:

Q3) Is the science page of the SAR being reviewed by engineers or scientists? Should the focus be on what the science is and why it detects life or how the mechanical system is supporting it?
Teams should focus on the science, but not ignore how the system will be implemented. The science page of the SAR report is being reviewed by scientists, but the rest by engineers. The science judges may only skim over the material outside of the science page, and non-science judges may only skim over the science page.

Q4) What science explanation should be shown in the video?
The video should demonstrate the rover systems required to execute the Science Mission. However, any discussion of the scientific procedure or explanation of scientific principles should be limited to the written SAR Science Plan.

Q5) Are we allowed to include citations to papers supporting the science? Do they count against the page limit?
Citations should be included when papers are discussed, but it can be abbreviated. A citation alone does not count as knowledge. They must be included as footnotes on the page where the referenced material is presented, and must be included within the page limits.

Q6) Are images a waste of space in the SAR report since there is a video to show the systems? Is the team structure required in the SAR video, or is it sufficient if we mention it only in the report?
This is up to you. You have a 5 minute video and a 6 page report to convey why we should select your rover to compete at the Mars Desert Research Station. Use the space as you feel best.

Q7) What are the weightings of the video and report in the final SAR score?
We do not score the report and video separately. The requested content can be conveyed in either text or video or both at your preference. However, understand that demonstrated rover progress is best conveyed in the video.

Q8) Is there an emphasis in the SAR video component to share/discuss team outreach efforts, or should it be kept minimal?
Kept minimal is appropriate. Outreach, recruiting, and training are worth a few points, but be sure to cover everything else as a priority.

Q9) How do we show the autonomy video traversal in a convincing way that does not take up a lot of valuable time in the 5 minute video?
This is mostly up to you. Be creative and impress us. You could try speeding up the video, on-screen display of data, or effects such as picture-in-picture to show multiple viewpoints simultaneously.

Q10) The requirements state the use of 11 point Calibri font (or similar). Is the same font required for captions, footnotes, etc.?
8 point font is acceptable for citations, captions, footnotes, or in tables. Text embedded in graphs/images must be readable in the final document (no minimum font requirement, however teams will not be given credit for unreadable content).

Q11) Is a specific format required for footnote citations?
No specific citation style is required, but at a minimum, last name of the first author, year, abbreviated journal name. However, you need to make sure it is easy for the judges to find. If it doesn't come up as the top link in a Google Scholar search either add more details such as the title of the article, or provide a link/URL to the article. (URLs are strongly recommended when available.)