Rovers built by students from around the world faced off earlier this month in a competition designed to test how well they might, one day, explore the Red Planet. A team from Saskatoon finished in first place.
The University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST) had to build a rover that could handle simulated Mars exploration tasks and piloted it to a win at the second annual European Rover Challenge (ERC).
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This year, almost 40 teams from 12 countries registered for a chance to compete in the international competition for mock Mars robots. It took place between Sept. 5-6 at the Regional Science-Technology Centre in Podzamcze, Poland.
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USST earned a top score of 456.5 points with their rover named “Marco MK II.”
Around 25 people contributed to their current rover, according USST president Jack Fotheringham. Most of the team is comprised of undergraduate students from the university’s college of engineering.
Second place at the 2015 ERC went to Poland’s Bialystok University of Technology, finishing with 420.2 points. Third place was taken by the team from Montreal’s McGill University who scored 367.8 points.
Besides “Martian rover” bragging rights, USST also won prizes that included US$1,000.
Formed in 2005, the USST is a student-run group based on U of S campus, however it relies on charitable donations to compete.
Fotheringham says they value their robot at around US$14,000. All rovers at ERC had to cost less than US$15,000.
USST has also competed twice at the University Rover Challenge (URC) in Utah. They placed seventh in 2014 and 2015. Fotheringham says they will be updating their current rover design before heading back to both competitions next year.