Bangladesh’s IUT Mars Rover Team ranks 10th at ERC 2021
The European Rover Challenge (ERC) is a prestigious space and robotics event combining international competitions of mobile robots with scientific and technological shows. Regarded as the biggest robotics and space event in Europe, ERC is also the meeting place for representatives of the European world of science and business interested in the use of space and robotic technologies.
ERC mainly comprises an international Martian robot competition, where academic teams from around the world present their mobile robot designs, competing in competitions based on real ESA and NASA missions. The event is organised on the world's largest artificial Martian track, which is directly derived from the surface of the planet. The ERC 2021 competition was held in both on-site and remote locations, where the competitors remotely controlled the robot, while physically moving it along a track located in Poland.
ERC is open to all student teams across the world. During the competition, each team was required to submit a preliminary documentation report in order to advance to the qualification stage. This report included information about the rover's design, the squad's workflow diagram, and the team's structure. The top 15 teams proceeded to the next round. The succeeding round required the teams to conduct numerous simulations using specialist software in order to complete their responsibilities. Finally, each team presented their findings through an online presentation.
The ERC organisers published several documents with detailed instructions of the tasks expected to be performed at the field trial events and ROS-based simulation environments. There were three test drives for each navigation and maintenance task. During the test drives and field trials, the teams uploaded their software to task-specific robots. The software was developed using the provided simulation environment and the quality of the software was judged based on the robot's ability to complete the sub-tasks.
This year, IUT Mars Rover, consisting of students from Islamic Institute of Technology, placed 10th out of 38 international teams. This is the best result by a Bangladeshi team in this competition so far.
While talking about the obstacles faced by the team, the team emphasised on the technical challenges. "We had to work hard to maintain the software according to the standard specified by the organisers. The software developed here was run on equipment in Poland. The entire software stack was developed using simulation and that part was really nerve-wrecking," shared Muhammad Samin Hasan, Team Lead, IUT Mars Rover.
Additionally, the team also struggled with connectivity issues due to the event being online. "We faced problems due to low bandwidth and our controller was getting disconnected from the rover. Network issues also hampered the transfer of program files and it was difficult to communicate with our team members on a virtual medium," explained Muhtasim Mashfy, Director Management, IUT Mars Rover.
The author is a medical student and a freelance journalist who likes reading, scribbling, and blogging. Email: [email protected].