Tech

May 31, 2013

Teams prepare for NASA $1.5 million robot challenge

Eleven teams from across the country and around the globe are preparing to compete for $1.5 million during NASA’s 2013 Sample Return Robot Challenge, June 5-7 at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass.

Teams will demonstrate a robot that can locate and collect geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain, operating without human control. The objective of this NASA-WPI Centennial Challenge is to encourage innovations in autonomous navigation and robotics technologies. Innovations stemming from the challenge could improve NASA’s capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation’s robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth.

“Anticipation is high for a successful sample collection this year,” said Sam Ortega, program manager of Centennial Challenges, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “Last year, teams were finding their footing and tweaking their designs. This year, we have several teams that know what they’re up against, and they can’t wait to get back on the field. We have a lot of new competitors signed up. Improving this technology will be a huge boon, not just to NASA and space exploration, but also for countless applications here on Earth.”

There will be two levels of competition. For a robot to complete Level 1 successfully, it must leave from a starting platform in search of a sample that has been previously identified in the robot’s onboard computer. The robot must then autonomously return one undamaged sample to its starting platform within a 30-minute time limit. Only teams that complete Level 1 will be allowed to compete in Level 2.

To complete Level 2 successfully, a robot must autonomously return at least two undamaged samples, including the pre-cached sample, to its starting platform within a two-hour time limit.

Samples are categorized as easy, intermediate and hard based on the complexity of their shape, size and design, with higher point values given for samples classified as hard. Samples range in shape and size from rectangular (like a shoe box) or round (like a tennis ball). Prize awards will range from $100,000 to $1.5 million depending on the amount of points scored.

This is the second Sample Robot Return competition. During last year’s competition, also at WPI, 11 teams registered to compete and the field narrowed to six as the competition approached. After robot inspections, only one team met the contest’s rigorous requirements. That robot competed in Level 1, but failed to collect the required samples in the allotted time, so no prize money was awarded.

The Centennial Challenges program does not award funds to competitors unless the challenge objectives have been met. This assures desired results are gained before government funds are paid.

Returning teams this year include SpacePRIDE of Graniteville, S.C.; Survey of Los Angeles; Wunderkammer of Topanga, Calif.; Intrepid of Lynnwood, Wash.; and the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. New teams entering the competition are Fetch of Alexandria, Va.; Middleman of Dunedin, Fla.; Mystic Late Robots of The Woodlands, Texas; Team AERO of Worcester, Mass.; the Autonomous Rover Team of the University of California at Santa Cruz; and Kuukuglur of Estonia.

The challenge begins on the WPI campus Wednesday, June 5, with awards expected on Saturday, June 8, if competition objectives are met. The awards ceremony will take place during the day-long TouchTomorrow technology festival hosted by WPI. The festival will showcase the teams and robots as well as NASA and WPI exhibits in science, robotics and space technology. The TouchTomorrow festival is open to the public.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
University of Alaska-Fairbanks photograph by Chris Larsen

NASA airborne campaigns focus on climate impacts in Arctic

University of Alaska-Fairbanks photograph by Chris Larsen Changes in more than 130 Alaskan glaciers are being surveyed by scientists at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in a DHC-3 Otter as part of NASA’s multi-year Oper...
 
 
NASA/SSAI photograph by Edward Winstead

ACCESS II confirms jet biofuel burns cleaner

NASA/ORAU photograph by Richard Moore NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft leads one of the ACCESS II sampler aircraft across the early morning California sky.   Flying high above the California desert, NASA researchers rec...
 
 

Sparks fly as NASA pushes limits of 3-D printing technology

NASA has successfully tested the most complex rocket engine parts ever designed by the agency and printed with additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, on a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. NASA engineers pushed the limits of technology by designing a rocket engine injector – a highly complex part that...
 

 
NASA photograph by David Alexander

NASA MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft completes visual, radar mission in Hawaii

NASA photograph “Ikhana,” NASA’s MQ-9 remotely piloted research aircraft, carries a maritime radar in a specialized centerline pod during a flight to check out systems prior to the aircraft’s deployment ...
 
 
NASA photograph by Tom Tschida

NASA Armstrong’s space shuttle Mate-Demate Device coming down

NASA photograph by Tom Tschida The space shuttle Mate-Demate Device that stood as an iconic symbol of NASA’s now-concluded Space Shuttle Program at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center for 38 years is being dismantled af...
 
 

NASA awards research facilities, engineering support services contract

NASA has awarded a contract for research facilities and engineering support services to InuTeq, LLC of Greenbelt, Maryland, in support of the Mission Information and Test Systems Directorate at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. This cost-plus-award-fee contract covers a one-year base period beginning Nov. 1, 2014 and four one-year options, and is valued...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>