An inter-school team of six Bangladeshi high school students are all set to compete at the upcoming NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge 2018 to be held at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, USA from April 12-15, 2018. This is the first ever high school team from Bangladesh to participate in any international rover challenge.
Each year, the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge features an engineering design challenge to engage students worldwide in the next phase of human space exploration. The competition challenges high school and college students to create a vehicle designed to traverse the simulated surface of Mars. Since last year, this competition started welcoming international high school and undergraduate students. The students design, build, and test technologies that enable rovers to perform in a wide variety of environments. Guided by a theme of overcoming the problems of planetary exploration, this year the competition will mimic the opportunities, challenges, and decision-making that future explorers will face in interplanetary space.
This year, around 100 teams from all over the world have been invited to take part in the final round after meeting the competition requirements. The key task is to design and create rovers capable of traversing a challenging exoplanetary landscape in accordance to a 60 page guidebook provided by NASA. The planned course for the competition requires two students, one female and one male, to traverse a terrain of 0.50 miles that includes a simulated field of asteroid debris, erosion ruts and crevasses of varying widths and depths. The challenge's weight and time requirements encourage compactness, light weight, high performance and efficiency. Teams earn points by sending an eight page long technical report before the competition. During the competition, they have to assemble the rover, complete course obstacles, perform tasks throughout the mission following proper strategy and reach the final destination by touching the ground as few times as possible.
To take part in the competition a team is required to have 6 students and 1 Advisor. Six rover enthusiast friends, Muhammad Jawadul Hassan (Captain), Saquib Shahzad, Kazi Shahul Hossain, and Sadequa Nusrat from Academia School; Syeda Sarah Shahrin from Maple Leaf International School, and Uzair Tahamid Siam from Sea Breeze International School, came together to form “Academia Robotics Team” to become the first ever high school team from Bangladesh to participate in this coveted global competition organized by NASA. Over the last few months, the team has collectively designed and built a fully functional manually driven rover and has since submitted a thorough technical report to the competition body. The team is mentored by Chowdhury Miftah Mahmood Sagir, a recent EEE graduate from American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB) and a robotics enthusiast, who also has a past record of participating in International Rover Competitions and representing our country in a global stage.
As making a competent rover and participating in international competitions requires huge expense, the team is seeking sponsors' help to invest on their rover and other expenditures. This will help them to put up a good fight or even bring back success for our country. The team hopes that many more such enthusiastic Bangladeshi teens can participate in global competitions in the future without funding restrictions as more sponsors come forward to help facilitate youth interest in STEM fields or otherwise.