York rover team lunar bound

Team members explain the some of the innovations engineered into the 2012 rover

Today, the York University Rover Team (YURT) and their latest space exploration robot embark on their first payload mission as they compete in NASA’s Lunabotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 21 to 26.

The York University Rover Team
The York University Rover Team

The York team will be among a cohort of university and college teams from the United States and Canada who will go through a series of trials designed to test their robots and the teams’ ability to work through the challenges.

As part of the Lunabotics competition, the teams will navigate their rovers through five major tests that are designed to show how the rover works alongside an astronaut. The most difficult will be navigating the rover through a rocky simulated lunar environment to pick up a payload and deliver it back to a base, all within 15 minutes. Challenges in past years also saw teams tested on their systems engineering paper, community outreach, their ability to deliver a slide presentation and overall team spirit.

In advance of their quest to become the North American Lunabotics champions, the YURTs (as they like to be called) unveiled their new rover to the University community at a special send-off party last Thursday. The sleek prototype features a payload compartment and adaptive wheels that can withstand the lack of atmosphere and harsh terrain encountered on a space mission. The rover also has a viewing system and a powerful articulating robotic arm. It is controlled with a wireless set-up.

“When you go out to represent York University, whatever the result, we are proud of you,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri in his send-off to the students. “This is an experience that you will never forget.”

Also attending the send-off were Faculty of Science & Engineering Dean Janusz Kozinski, York Vice-President Resarch & Innovation Robert Haché, and Associate Vice-President Research & Innovation Walter Tholen.

The 2012 rover is the result of countless hours the team has devoted – all outside the classroom – to researching, designing, building and programming their robotic rover. The group has also had an ambitious goal of raising $50,000, which will provide enough funds to cover the costs of not only the Lunabotics competition, but also two other Team members explain the some of the innovations engineered into the 2012 rovercompetitions: the Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge (URC) in Hanksville, Utah, May 31 to June 2, and the Canadian Innovation Nation (CSii) Robotics Competition in Muskoka on July 9.

Team members explain the some of the innovations engineered into the 2012 rover

YURT is celebrating its fifth year as a student club at York University and has an impressive record of accomplishment. In 2008, the rover team placed third in the Mars Rover Competition, in 2009 they locked down a first-place finish, and they placed second in 2010 and 2011.

YURT is sponsored by York University, Ontario Centres of Excellence and MDA. The faculty advisers from York’s Department of Earth & Space Science & Engineering, Faculty of Science & Engineering were Professor Michael Daly and Professor Regina Lee.

For more information, visit the University Rover Challenge website.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor