Military Institute of Science & Technology (MIST)'s rover team, Mongol Barota, ranked first in the University Rover Challenge (URC) 2021. Organised by the Mars Society, the URC is the most prestigious robotics competition for college students across the world. The annual event is hosted in the United States and challenges students to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that have the potential to aid in space exploration.
Due to the pandemic, the finals of URC were cancelled this year and the hosts came up with an alternative virtual challenge. It provided participants with the opportunity to build courses on their own campuses, and compete remotely while judges and fans tuned in online. The competition included three missions and 13 teams from 5 countries were able to compete in the finals where all the sessions were live streamed.
MIST's team, Mongol Barota, scored the highest in 'Equipment Servicing Mission' and attaining the second highest score in 'Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission'. Additionally, BRAC University's Mongol-Tori ranked fourth in the competition, scoring the highest in the 'Autonomous Navigation Mission'.
"This competition allows students to check the capability of their rover in a simulated environment. A virtual event restricted this opportunity as we could not gain the actual experience that would have helped us improve our skills," shared Akib Zaman, the team leader of Mongol Barota. "The organisers handled everything efficiently and helped us at every stage. Preparing the competition arena on our campus was a new experience. Furthermore, we invited the science representatives from nine colleges to our final event so they could see our performance live and handle the rover," he added. Their team consisted of students from CSE and Mechanical departments.
"Managing and monitoring such a big technical team is challenging. However, our sub-team leads made this journey smooth and enjoyable. This achievement would not have been possible without the constant support and dedication of my team members," shared Md. Firoz Wadud, the team leader of Mongol-Tori.
During the 'Equipment Servicing Mission', the rover teams performed a series of adept manipulation tasks by operating an equipment designed for a human. The tasks included opening a drawer, placing a toolbox in that drawer, and closing it, typing a command on a keyboard, and turning a screw to tighten it. The Autonomous Navigation Mission required rovers to navigate through a series of visual markers, without human control.
The 'Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission' generally sends rovers racing around the extreme terrain of the Mars Desert Research Station, searching for supplies to deliver to astronauts. Since it was not possible to replicate this in local campuses, judges chose a series of simplified tasks meant to highlight rovers' ability to perform basic operations. These included carrying and delivering packages, ascending a steep incline, and surviving a 1 meter descent.
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