By Kalwinder Kaur
Eleven teams of engineers from various states in the U.S., who created autonomous robots, will compete for a NASA prize purse of $1.5 M, from June 14 -17, within Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) facility in Worcester, Mass. The challenge is to design and develop the next generation robots capable of exploring global landscapes.
The competing teams are entitled to designing and creating an autonomous robotic system. These systems should be capable of identifying and collecting a set of specific objects from a wide area. The "planetary samples" must then return to the starting zone. These are the details involved in NASA-WPI Sample Return Robot Challenge.
The innovative technologies by the teams will promote advanced planetary explorations for NASA, in addition to providing potential advantages for land expeditions including remote exploration, mapping of hazardous terrains, and disaster recovery and mitigation.
The objectives of NASA-WPI Sample Return Robot include identifying innovative new technologies for autonomous sample collection and robot navigation. Also, robotic navigation over different terrain without using Earth-based systems or GPS will be demonstrated. The competition will encourage educators and other professionals to incorporate robotics for various present and future real-world applications.
The roving area involved in the competition consists of open rolling terrain, a variety of rocks, soft soils, and static obstacles like large rocks, trees, and water hazards. Maps with orbital resolution with starting position location and a pre-cached sample will be provided for the teams.
Individuals with more scores based on the number and point value of samples collected and returned to the starting location will be qualified for prizes.
The competition’s first phase includes the autonomous capability of robot to navigate and retrieve a pre-cached sample in just 15 min, while during the second phase, a robot is expected to autonomously navigate and get the pre-cached samples, followed by retrieving the complicated samples present in roving area within two hours.