The tournament was held from May 30 to June 1 at the NASA Johnson Space Center's Rock Yard in Houston, Texas. In this year’s Robo-Ops competition, eight university teams were challenged to design and build a planetary rover and demonstrate its capability to perform a series of competitive tasks, which include negotiating specified 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. A portion of the WPI team fielded the Oryx 2.0 robot in Houston, while the control team operated it from the Worcester campus.
During the one-hour performance run, WPI located and stored 13 rock samples and one alien life form, far outdistancing CalTech, with four rock samples and one alien life form, and the University of Maryland, with two rock samples. There were five other teams in the competition.
"For the second year in a row, WPI has proved it is one of the premier universities in the nation when it comes to fielding a robust, reliable, innovative, and, might I say, beautiful tele-operated robot," said Pat Troutman, human exploration strategic analysis lead at NASA Langley Research Center, and a Robo-Ops Steering Committee Member. "WPI set the bar higher than any other competitor in the Robo-Ops competition. Not only did WPI win the contest, but they demonstrated remarkable sportsmanship toward all the other participants and did a great job engaging the general public in their activities."
"This accomplishment is a result of the trifecta of skills - mechanical design, electrical system integration, and programming - that our students gain in WPI's innovative Robotics Engineering Program," said WPI Professor Taskin Padir of the Robotics Engineering Program and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. "Once again, our team did an outstanding job in terms of teamwork, professionalism and public outreach."
Oryx 2.0 will be shipped back to the WPI campus in time to be displayed during TouchTomorrow, a free, interactive festival of hands-on exhibits and activities focused on our scientific and technological future, which will take place on WPI's campus on June 16. The TouchTomorrow festival is a celebration of NASA's selection of WPI as host and manager of its latest Centennial Challenge – the Sample Return Robot (SRR) Challenge – a national competition with a total prize purse of $1.5 million that was designed to improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as to enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications here on Earth. The festival will run simultaneously with the SRR Challenge, which will be taking place on and near the WPI campus.