Welcome to the MAVRIC Blog for the University Mars Rover Competition 2010. We will use this page to blog about our competition which will be held from June 3rd to June 5th. So please check back here closer to that time for updates on the competition.
URC 2010 Blog
Had the rover worked, we would have used the tube shovel attachment. This was a simple tube attached to the arm that would scoop up the desert soil. Although we could move the rover, we were still having issues with the arm. We then locked the tube in one position and we were hoping we could just push on the ground with the tracks. But when the tracks failed, we went to plan B with getting the samples by hand.
Below is a short video taken from our camera on the microscope. You can see some small particulates that are vibrating around in there. This is a pretty good indication of life. In addition, our pH test showed that soil had the right pH values to possibly support life as well.
We collected two samples, one which showed possible signs of life in the microscope as shown in the video above, and one which did not. But the one that did not we expected it may not show any signs of life. We then put together a short power point presentation showing the judges this evidence as well as pictures that the rover took of the desert that we used in our analysis. One other aspect of the event was to show a panoramic view of the desert, which we also did.
With that we concluded our events in the University Rover Challenge. Tired and hungry we headed back into Hanksville to grab a late lunch. We still had some time before the BBQ and awards ceremony so we drove back out to the desert. We had heard from the locals and others at the competition that there was a dinosaur dig that was just further up the road from the competition sites. So we decided to go and check that out. We got there and got to see a bunch of dinosaur bones and they gave us a tour of the site as well.
I should also mention that the desert was actually quite busy while we were there. In addition to the competition and the dinosaur dig site, Disney/Pixar was there shooting for a movie. We didn't get many details, but we heard from the locals that it was a mixed live action/CGI movie and was called the Mars Princess, or so we were told. In any case, we did get to see lots of Hollywood type people out there and even caught a glimpse of some of the props they were using.
By the time we got back from that, the BBQ had already started and so we went to go get some hamburgers and hot dogs. It was then time for them to announce the winners of the competition. The winner was Oregon State University, which had an excellent rover this year. 2nd place went to York University followed by the Magma team from Poland. As we started to pack things up, the three teams needed someone to take their picture, which I volunteered to do.
All in all it was a great competition. Everyone on the ISU team had a great time and a lot was learned from it that we can use for next year. The ISU team is certainly looking forward to being back in 2011 and the other teams better look out, because we'll be back with an even better rover than before.
My apologies for the lack of updates, the remaining days of the event will be updated soon. Unfortunately our internet connection was often just too slow or unreliable for even updating the blog let alone any pictures or video. We then were busy on the last day of the competition and I just didn't get a chance to update. The team is now back in Ames, I've been able to get almost all of the pictures uploaded and I'm working on some videos now. So stay tuned for some big blog posts covering the competition itself soon.
The team met with the competition organizers at 11:00 a.m. (MST) to go over last minute details. At that time we found out that 4 teams had dropped out and that a 5th one had not shown up yet and is assumed to have dropped out as well. This leaves 7 teams for the competition. Afterwards we drove out to the Mars Desert Research Site (MDRS) so that all teams knew how to get to the site. After a very short debriefing there, we were allowed to do whatever we wanted. We decided to look at the HAB unit and then took a few pictures near the HAB unit. Hopefully my pictures will upload tonight and will be in the web album I linked below. We then went and scouted out some of the competition areas (which was allowed) and also took some small samples of dirt. We then used these samples to test our equipment in detecting possible life which we were able to do, so we feel pretty good about our procedure and the science for that.
The rover itself is doing better. All repairs have been made including the arm which is now re-attached and is stronger than ever. We then noticed though that one of our lead acid batteries has damaged and was not working properly. We traveled to a nearby town (still 45 miles away) but no luck. By this time we really needed to report back at the MDRS so we could weigh in. At weigh in we got two pieces of good news. One, we are under the 50 kg limit (49.5 kg), and two the Oregon State University team was kind enough to loan us a lead acid battery that they did not need. We greatly appreciate OSU in letting us borrow one of their batteries. With that, we went back to work on some last minute refinements on the rover which is now looking pretty good again.
Tomorrow we will do the construction task and the site survey task. We get to sleep in a little as our first task doesn't start until 10:00 a.m. (MST). On Saturday we will wrap up with the science task and the emergency navigation task.
It would appear that if I have my laptop near the bathroom of my hotel room I get a better wi-fi connection (no, unfortunately I'm not kidding). So I was able to upload what pictures I have take so far and hopefully this trick will work for more to come.
I mentioned in my last post that we had damage to the rover due to transportation. The rover is equipped with a linear actuator that also holds other movable joints and motors that make up the arm. That snapped off from the main frame. The good news though is that we think it's repairable and even now some of the students are working on the repairs. In addition, there was a plate that was holding the single board computer and lead acid batteries which broke. Their were some broken connections, which we have been able to fix some of them but the good news is that the SBC did power up and appears to be working. Further tests on the electronics will be happening tonight and of course tomorrow as we hope to do more tests. Right now things are still looking optimistic that we can still compete.
Tomorrow morning we will be meeting with the event coordinators for a debriefing and for a chance to do some testing. We also will need to weigh in (all rovers need to be under 50 kg) as well. Our internet connection at the hotel we are staying at is a little flaky, but hopefully I'll be able to upload some pictures soon.
We left Ames today and started our journey to Utah. We made it to Fort Morgan, CO and stopped for the night. We then went to check to see how the rover had fared the trip so far. Unfortunately we did not like what we saw. The arm assembly that carried the linear actuator and the other arm motors had snapped off. In addition, the bottom plate which had the weight of the lead acid batteries also broke as well. As it was midnight Iowa time when we pulled in to Fort Morgan, we have only done a quick look over. Tomorrow we will further asses the damage and see what repairs we can do. At this point we plan to continue to Utah and we still plan to compete in as much of the competition as we can.
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