Sooner Rover Team recently took home the gold at the 6th Annual RASC-AL Robo-Ops Challenge sponsored by NASA. Not only did the Sooner Rover Team win the national competition, they set records, beating the standing rock yard record by over 200%. The team finished with a final score of 132. The second place team trailed behind with a score of 48.
The Robo-Ops Challenge took place at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The selected student teams had to design life-sized rovers that could move and climb through various terrain, collect rock samples and store them, and navigate through the rock yard all while being controlled remotely from each team’s home university with real-time video feeds from the rovers’ cameras. Teams had one hour to collect and secure the rock samples along with bonus challenges. In addition to the rock yard challenge, teams also had to present a technical paper, a poster and carry out a public outreach program.
Among the eight teams at the competition, Sooner Rover Team stood out from the beginning with their unique design. Rovie McRoverface (the rover’s given name) was modeled after a 1980’s Russian lunar rover featuring a spine, six cone-shaped wheels and a robotic arm. This allowed the rover to bend and travel through various terrain at the competition more easily. Clearly, the unique design paid off.
Rovie McRoverface collected all 26 rock samples and completed all four bonus challenges flawlessly. The team’s score was recorded on the scoreboard by NASA followed with a “WOW.” But, seriously.
“I felt a little like I was dreaming that the rover was performing so well,” said Dane Schoelen, Sooner Rover Team Project Lead. “When mission control successfully completed the contingencies task through amazing teamwork and improvisation, I felt like there was no way I wasn’t dreaming. It is satisfying that after all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into creating our rover, we were able to put on an outstanding performance.”
The team is made up of all Gallogly College of Engineering students and advised by AME Professor David Miller, Ph.D. The team members at mission control were Bill Doyle, Brent Wolf, Alex Borgerding, Jacob Jordan, Oskar Paredes, Ashley Findley, Janella Clary, Matthew Solcher and Aaron Condreay, and the members who went to competition were Nathan Justus, Dane Schoelen and Kevin Cotrone.
The team won first place, broke and set records and brought home a $6,000 prize that they hope will go towards next year’s rover. It is safe to say the team will be set with experienced members as Nathan Justus was the only senior. He will start his career at NASA in Houston as an operations engineer at mission control for the International Space Station.
“I cannot emphasize enough how hard our team worked to make sure that we were prepared for that day. Our performance and the recognition we got from NASA, NIA, and the other teams made all of that work worth it,” said Nathan Justus, Sooner Rover Team Chief Engineer. “Of course, the project had merit of its own and the learning process was substantial, but whatever, it feels good to have DESTROYED and earned that with blood and mind power.”
Congratulations, Sooner Rover Team! We are so proud of your hard work and success!