Robots take on valley’s Martian landscape this weekend | DrumhellerMail
Last updateMon, 25 Mar 2019 2pm

Robots take on valley’s Martian landscape this weekend


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This coming weekend some brilliant minds in the science field will be in the valley to take on the terrain.

The second annual Canadian International Mars Rover Challenge is in the valley. Last summer there were just a few entries and in a year the challenge has grown leaps and bounds.

“There were technically three teams (last year). We say two and a half because one of the teams never brought their full rover last year, they brought $300 and made something out of what they could buy at Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart,” said one of the organizers Justin Gerein.

The premise is simple. Post-secondary design teams from all over the world will come with their prototype rover vehicles. These will be put through the paces using the valley’s natural terrain to simulate an early colony on an extraterrestrial planet.

Gerein explains they have formed an association to host the event and brought on some sponsors. This allows them to operate at arm’s length

from the teams. There are less than a handful of these events around the world.

“It is nerve-wracking because you want to make sure it is a good event for everyone. The expectations are a little higher now,” he said. “Right now there is only one other event like this in North America for this sort of style of robotics, and this provides more opportunities for more students.”

  This year there are 19 registered teams and they are expected from as far away as Poland and Bangladesh. American university and college entries include Oregon State, the University of Washington and Harvard. Canadian universities include Carleton, the University of  Saskatchewan, the University of Toronto, and Ryerson, to name a few.

Last summer the event was small and teams were working on their machines in sparse conditions.

“Last year one of the teams did a lot of work in the breakfast area at the Quality Hotel,” he laughs.

This year organizers have booked the Badlands Community Facility to allow the teams space to work, and also let the public in to see some of the intricate machines and the teams in action.

“We are hoping this year will be a lot more open and accessible to the public to see what the students have done, to see the rovers driving and testing,” said Gerein.

The teams will register and set up on Friday, August 10, and throughout the weekend they will take on challenge scenarios in Midland Provincial Park and near the water tower downtown, including a task that runs overnight.

We wanted to challenge the teams to actually operate overnight because there is nowhere that you are exposed to daylight all the time,” he said.

The BCF will be open during business hours for spectators to see the teams. On Monday, August 13, they are holding the Rover Olympics at the BCF at 1 p.m. The BCF Field House will be closed from Friday, August 10 to Tuesday, August 14 to accomadate the event. 

"The teams will be using the field house as a base for their technicians, equipment, and performing maintenance throughout the day and over night," says BCF marketing and sales officer Erica Crocker. "They will be caring for the floor surface with a protective cover to prevent damage."

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