Scorpion planetary rover (phot. Krzysztof Mazur)
Wrocław University of Technology students have been working on and perfecting it for two years. At the end of May, the Scorpion planetary rover will compete with other machines from the entire world. It will take part in the prestigious University Rover Challenge at the Utah desert
Ten members of the Off-Road Scientific Circle for Unconventional Vehicles (at the Chair of Mobile Robots and Industrial Vehicles) have worked on the vehicle. It’s an improved version of the rover that won the last year’s international European Rover Challenge organized in Poland.
At the competition in the USA, it will have to complete 4 tasks as best it can and the sum of points achieved for each of the tasks will give the final result. Thus, Scorpion will have to travel a specified route on which it will have to traverse a 60 degree slope, a 1 metre high downhill, as well as collect and examine a sample of ground, transport a package for an astronaut and bring him/her the tools he needs, such as a hammer or pliers, and operate a solar panel, i.e. measure the voltage and turn the controllers with its manipulators.
“Scorpion is an analogue of a Mars rover but we designed it so that it can also be used on Earth to carry out examinations in hardly accessible areas, such as the Antarctica or in caves.” – says Dawid Dzwończyk, one of the designers of the rover – “Our vehicle has a modular structure, which means that its individual elements are entirely autonomous. If we detach the manipulator, it will still work. This also applies to other modules.”
The wheels of our students’ rover are made of cordura, a durable fabric, which the designers filled with a granulate. Thanks to this, it is easier for the vehicle to traverse obstacles, as its wheels can adapt their shape to the shape of the surface. This is an important advantage, since the irregular surface of Mars significantly hinders travelling around with wheeled vehicles. It also has an airtight housing that protects it against dust and moisture.
University Rover Challenge is the most prestigious competition of students’ rovers. It is held near the Mars Desert Research Station, which imitates Mars conditions. The competition will start on 28 May but the rover will be sent to USA already on Wednesday. The students will also leave for the USA earlier to have enough time to test their rover there.
A total of 23 teams (out of 44 applicants) will take part in the competition. The list includes 7 teams from the USA, 5 teams from India and Poland each, 4 teams from Canada, 1 from Bangladesh and 1 from Egypt. Apart from our University students, Poland will be represented by teams from the Białystok University of Technology, Częstochowa University of Technology, Rzeszów University of Technology, and Warsaw University of Technology.
Wrocław University of Technology students already have a major success under their belt: in 2013, they took second place in the overall classification.
Translation: Dariusz Więcławski