Founded in 2015, the Sooner Rover Team usually competes in the Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge each year. This includes the 2016 National Institute of Aerospace RASC-AL Robo-Ops competition in Houston, which they won! This year however, the URC Finals were cancelled due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic. Luckily, with many teams anxious to test their capabilities and showcase their hard work, the URC staff developed a special event called the Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021. The challenge took place June 3-6 and allowed the competing teams to build the URC courses on their own campuses and to live stream their rover’s progress on the course. The live streaming also allowed for both the team competitions to be judged remotely and for fans across the globe to view the Challenge as it happened.
There were originally 88 teams competing in the URC, but only 55 submitted System Acceptance Review packages (SAR). Because of COVID, there was a lower number of teams than usual this year. The SAR is a video and paper submission that is scored as the first part of the competition. Only 36 teams were invited to finals and of those, only 13 from five countries were able to compete in the virtual finals. There were three missions in the Virtual University Rover Challenge; the Equipment Servicing Mission, the Autonomous Navigation Mission, and the Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission.
Unfortunately, the Sooner Rover Team ran into a few issues during the virtual challenge. The rover’s back left wheel motor seized up an hour before competition while the team was in a testing phase, so the wheel motor had to be left unpowered during the competition which made driving difficult. Also, the wiring was a little unreliable so the team had to take a few penalties to fix that mid-competition. But despite all this adversity, the team did a great job! The Sooner Rover Team received 9th place on both the Equipment Servicing and Extreme Retrieval and Delivery missions, and they tied for 4th place on the Autonomous Navigation Mission!
Congratulations to the Sooner Rover Team for their successful year and we wish them the best in the upcoming year!
You can watch the Sooner Rover Team’s System Acceptance Review (SAR) below: