Mars or bust! UH students’ robot design heads to international showdown

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is one step closer to a potential deployment of its robotic rover to explore Mars.

“Team Robotic Space Exploration” (Team RoSE) is headed to Utah in late May to compete in the University Rover Challenge—the world’s premier robotics competition for college students.

“The team was in awe of the results, but is greatly motivated to improve upon our designs to be prepared for competition in Utah,” said lead systems integrator and mechanical engineering student Jack Saito. “With less than 60 days left, the team is hoping to guarantee the success of our systems and eliminate any risks with thorough and persistent testing.”

After submitting a preliminary design and system acceptance review, the group was one of 38 teams selected to participate in the final round. More than 100 teams entered the competition.

“The entire team was ecstatic with the results knowing all the hard work and dedication had paid off; including all members from the past three years,” said project manager and mechanical engineering student Micah Chang. “It’s a great privilege for Team RoSE to participate in this magnificent event, and the team is excited for this opportunity to interact with peers and professionals from around the globe.”

Mission to Mars

small rover type machine

The University Rover Challenge challenges teams to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that may one day work alongside astronauts exploring the Red Planet.

Rovers will compete in four missions:

  • Science mission to investigate a site for the presence of life
  • Delivery mission to deliver a variety of objects to astronauts in the field across rugged terrain
  • Equipment servicing mission to perform dexterous operations on a mock lander using a robotic arm
  • Autonomous navigation mission to autonomously travel to a series of locations

“I’m so incredibly proud and impressed by the achievements of this highly motivated group of students,” said Frances Zhu, Hawaiʻi Institute of Geophysics and Planetology assistant researcher and the team’s advisor. “This undergraduate team formed just three years ago during the pandemic and now they are competing on the international stage.”

“This is the third time our UH Mānoa team has entered this very prestigious competition and the first time they were selected,” said Trevor Sorensen, Hawaiʻi Space Flight Laboratory specialist/project manager and the team’s advisor. “Their teamwork and engineering skills are very impressive and I believed that this team would succeed. Go ‘Bows!”

VIP project

small rover type machine

Team RoSE is one of approximately 20 Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) at UH Mānoa, which seek to foster long-term, in-depth, project-based learning to engage students and better prepare them for future careers. It consists of a faculty mentor, graduate student researchers and undergraduates.

“Robotic Space Exploration is an ideal example of a VIP team,” said Aaron Ohta, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering professor and VIP program director. “They are a multidisciplinary group of extremely talented and motivated students. This impressive accomplishment is a testament to their hard work and dedication.”

“This is why we encourage all our students to participate in VIP,” said College of Engineering Dean Brennon Morioka. “It exposes them to all the skill sets they will need in their careers and life—from the technical know-how to working with others to public speaking and leadership qualities.”

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