For the second straight year, the Mountaineer Robotics team from West Virginia University has been selected to participate in the Robo-Ops competition to be held at NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s Rock Yard. The event is scheduled for June, 2013.

This year’s team will be partnering with students from Bluefield State College. Joining WVU in this year’s national competition will be teams from Arizona State University; a joint team from Florida A&M and Florida State University; University of Nebraska-Lincoln; University of Maryland; University of Massachusetts, Lowell; University of Utah; and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The teams were selected from an applicant pool, which doubled in size from last year.

“We are very excited and honored to be selected for this competition once again, and we will do our best to showcase WVU as one of the top robotics programs in the country,” said Powsiri Klinkhachorn, professor in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and advisor for the team. “Last year, we finished fourth overall, despite unforeseen technical issues in our first year of competition. With one year under our belts, we feel we have a better understanding of the competition and have developed some new techniques that will hopefully allow us to perform better this year.”

The competing teams each receive a $10,000 stipend to partially offset the development costs of a Mars rover, materials, testing equipment, hardware and software. Rovers will compete on a planetary analog environment under the supervision of NASA judges. Up to three members of the team (plus the faculty advisor) will travel to the Johnson Space Center for the on-site testing. The remaining team members will stay behind at their home university to conduct “mission control” tasks. The prototype rovers will be tele-operated by the university team and must negotiate a series of obstacles while accomplishing a variety of tasks.

Sample tasks include negotiating specified upslopes and downslopes, traversing sand and gravel pits, picking up specific rock samples and placing them on the rover for the remainder of the course and driving over rocks of a specified diameter.

Each rover will be required to be controlled from the home university campus via a commercial broadband wireless uplink. The only information available to the rover controller to perform the required tasks will be information transmitted through on-board rover video camera(s) or other on-board sensors.

The competition is sponsored by Revolutionary Aerospace systems Concepts. The WVU team is sponsored by the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium and the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, in addition to in-kind support from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.



Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.

CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources