Queen's University

Design team competes on 'Mars'

 
QSET poses with their rover. (Photo by QSET)
The rover competed at the Mars Desert Research Station (Photo by QSET)
The team watches as the rover performs the equipment servicing task. (Photo by QSET)
The desert near Hanksville is highly similar to the terrain of Mars. (Photo by URC)
2014-06-09

By Andrew Stokes, Communications Officer

A group of Queen’s students got to experience Mars last week without leaving Earth.

After working for a year to build a functioning space rover, the Queen’s Space Engineering Team (QSET) flew to the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah, to pit their rover robot against opponents from around the globe.

QSET competed in four separate events against 22 teams during the University Rover Challenge. Facing stiff competition from veteran groups, the Queen’s team placed 13th.

“As a first year team we feel we did really well,” says Emily Wong (Sc’14), captain of QSET. “A lot of the teams have been improving their designs for many years, so we’re really happy about our results.”

The team faced challenges well before the competition started, as flight delays and overbookings left the students stranded in an airport and arriving to the competition just in time to compete. Their first task of traversing the desert terrain didn’t go as well as expected, but the team excelled in round two. An admitted mixture of skill and luck had their rover exceed expectations during a mock equipment servicing mission. They pushed their rover too hard in the third challenge, though, and repairs didn’t last for the final task of assisting a stranded astronaut.

Invigorated by the competition, the team is already making plans for next year. “There’s a lot of talk about going back,” says Ms. Wong. “You want something to build off of for your designs, so we have a lot of hope for progress.”

Adam Hall (Sc’14), Vice-President of Operations, QSET, appreciates the learning opportunity provided by the engineering team.

“Designing robots like we do is a great chance to supplement what’s taught in the classroom. You can follow the textbook word for word to build your power system, but it won’t teach you what brand of wiring to use, or what to do when something suddenly catches fire,” he says.

The student leaders were both happy and proud of their team, who spent the weekend running on a tight schedule with little sleep. “Everyone did great out there,” says Mr. Hall. “The team really came together out in the desert.”

QSET is partially funded by the Alma Mater Society and the Shell Experiential Learning Fund.

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Last updated at 9:45 pm EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
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