The 2nd annual University Rover Challenge that pitted seven schools' rovers against each other wrapped in early June. The contest was designed to encourage aspiring engineers and showcase their ingenuity in developing robotic vehicles for use on the Red Planet someday. The challenge unfolded in a series of events held over three days in the desert around Hanksville, Utah.
The competition featured a navigation task that simulated the delivery of an emergency oxygen canister to an astronaut stranded a hundred yards (91 meters) away. The other three event categories included soil collection and characterization, geologic scanning with spectral analysis in both visible and infrared light as well as a construction test involving the securing of hex bolts onto a metal panel.
In the end, the rover built and controlled by Oregon State University (O.S.U.) took top honors, narrowly beating the defending champions from the University of Nevada, Reno. The O.S.U. rover was the only machine to successfully locate a distressed astronaut and supply lifesaving oxygen, reminiscent of a Swiss alpine Saint Bernard rescue dog.
Six U.S. colleges and one Canadian university accepted the challenge, with teams coming from Brigham Young University; the Georgia Institute of Technology; Iowa State University; Oregon State University; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Nevada, Reno; and York University in Toronto. The competition was hosted by the Mars Society, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.