Third European Rover Challenge kicks off in Poland
The small town of Jasionka, near Rzeszów, Poland, will serve as a battleground of red-brown sand and dust for Mars rovers trying to complete numerous complex tasks. The event, known as the European Rover Challenge (ERC), accompanied by the first ever European Robotics Congress, will be held on Sept. 10–13.
Organized by the Polish branch of The Mars Society, ERC is Europe’s biggest robotics competition for college and university students. The goal of the contest is to design and build Martian rover prototypes and use them to complete various tasks such as obtaining soil samples, transporting objects from one location to another, rover navigation, and maintenance activities.
According to the competition’s guidelines, a rover participating in the challenge must be a stand-alone, mobile platform with a mass limit of 110 pounds (50 kilograms). The rover’s maximum speed should be not higher than 1.86 mph (3 km/h) and its cost cannot exceed 15,000 euros ($16,848).
Previous editions in 2014 and 2015, which were attended by more than 50,000 spectators, and took place in Podzamcze, near Kielce, Poland, some 150 kilometers away from this year’s location. However, the European Space Foundation, which manages the ERC event, decided to relocate the competition to Podkarpackie Voivodeship (one of the regions in Poland), due to the strong support of local authorities and the regional long-standing traditions of aviation and aerospace.
“Podkarpackie Voivodeship is Poland’s center of aviation, associated with the aerospace and space industry. It should be added that a rover from this region was lately very successful in the University Rover Challenge, defending the title. Moreover, one of the region’s priorities is the support for youth enterprises and economic development, in particular, by investing in innovation and building strong business relationships. Therefore, it can be said that ERC came home,” Łukasz Wilczyński, European Space Foundation President, told Astrowatch.net.
ERC 2016 attracted more than 400 young constructors from all over the world. Besides the host country, Bangladesh, Egypt, Canada, and India have provided a strong input, sending several teams each.
“Speaking of India, this country wants to be the driving force of space exploration. They have already proved that a mission to Mars can be accomplished cheaply and effectively, thus we can see a growing emphasis on space robotics in the region,” Wilczyński said.
The ERC contest will be complemented by the European Robotics Congress and an exhibition zone. The congress will include a variety of presentations and demonstrations about the main principles and objectives of Poland’s space strategy and will be held to highlight the importance of the four-day ERC event. The exhibition zone will host a series of scientific and technological demonstrations where participants, among others, will be able to learn the basics of robotics or use a flight simulator.
“The event will also serve as a tremendous opportunity for exchanging experiences and industrial knowledge between the business and science sectors and create a community of people open to challenges that require unconventional thinking,” said Wladyslaw Ortyl, Marshall of the Podkarpackie Region.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.