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NEW: WPI Repeats as Robotics Competition Winner

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

 

Forget the third time – for a group of WPI students the second time was the charm. The group last month won NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage Exploration Robo-Ops competition for the second straight year.

"For the second year in a row, WPI has proved it is one of the premier universities in the nation when it comes to fielding a robust, reliable, innovative, and, might I say, beautiful tele-operated robot,” said Pat Troutman, human exploration strategic analysis lead at NASA Langley Research Center, and a Robo-Ops Steering Committee Member. “WPI set the bar higher than any other competitor in the Robo-Ops competition. Not only did WPI win the contest, but they demonstrated remarkable sportsmanship toward all the other participants and did a great job engaging the general public in their activities.”

The tournament was held May 30 to June 1 at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Rock Yard in Houston, Texas. Eight university teams were challenged to design and build a planetary rover and demonstrate its capability to perform a series of competitive tasks, which include negotiating specified up-slopes and down-slopes, 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 specified diameter. A portion of the WPI team fielded the Oryx 2.0 robot in Houston, while the control team operated it from the Worcester campus.

During the one-hour performance run, WPI located and stored 13 rock samples and one alien life form, far outdistancing CalTech, with four rock samples and one alien life form, and the University of Maryland, with two rock samples.

"This accomplishment is a result of the trifecta of skills - mechanical design, electrical system integration, and programming - that our students gain in WPI's innovative Robotics Engineering Program,” said WPI Professor Taskin Padir of the Robotics Engineering Program and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. “Once again, our team did an outstanding job in terms of teamwork, professionalism and public outreach."

Oryx 2.0 will be shipped back to the WPI campus in time to be displayed during TouchTomorrow, a free, interactive festival of hands-on exhibits and activities focused on our scientific and technological future, which will take place on WPI’s campus on June 16. The TouchTomorrow festival is a celebration of NASA’s selection of WPI as host and manager of its latest Centennial Challenge – the Sample Return Robot (SRR) Challenge – a national competition with a total prize purse of $1.5 million that was designed to improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as to enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications here on Earth. The festival will run simultaneously with the SRR Challenge, which will be taking place on and near the WPI campus.

WPI team advisors for the RASC-AL competition were Padir, Robotics Resource Center director Kenneth Stafford and Brad Miller. Team members were Joe Amato, Jon Anderson, Tom Carlone, Michael Fagan, Ennio Claretti, Mitchell Wills and graduate students Velin Dimitrov and Ryan Linton.

The WPI team received a $10,000 stipend to partially offset the cost of rover hardware, public engagement activities and travel to the competition. In addition, the first-place award included $5,000 and a travel stipend to attend Desert RATS in the fall, where a NASA-led team conducts technology development research and analog testing in the Arizona desert.

 

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