For the third time in three years, a team of students from West Virginia University will puts its engineering skills to the test when it competes in the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts-Academic Linkage Exploration Robo-Ops Competition. Sponsored by NASA and organized by the National Institute of Aerospace, the competition will be held in June at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“We are honored and excited to be part of an elite group of eight universities selected to compete again this year,” said Powsiri Klinkhachorn, professor of computer science and electrical engineering and team adviser. “To be selected three years in a row speaks well for the ability of our students. They have designed and built some of the best robots in the past, and we are hoping our previous experiences will help our team excel in 2014.”

The rovers compete on a planetary analog environment under the supervision of NASA judges. Up to three members of the team, plus the faculty adviser, travel to Johnson Space Center for the on-site testing. The remaining team members stay behind at their respective universities to conduct “mission control” tasks. The prototype rovers will be tele-operated by the university team and must negotiate a series of obstacles while accomplishing a variety of tasks. Sample tasks include negotiating upslopes and downslopes, traversing sand and gravel pits, picking up specific rock samples and placing them on the rover for the remainder of the course and driving over rocks of specified diameter.

In 2013, the WVU team overcame some last-minute technical issues to finish fourth, while earning top honors for the best technical paper, the best looking-robot and winning the slalom Olympic Challenge.

Joining WVU in the competition will be teams from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Buffalo, University of California-Berkeley, University of Maryland, University of Utah, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Virginia Tech.

The teams each receive a $10,000 stipend from NASA/NIA to partially offset the cost of rover hardware and transportation costs to attend the event. Additional support for WVU’s team is provided by the NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium, the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

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