Find out what the latest edition of the ERC had to offer.
With inspirational meetings and lectures, exploring the universe and witnessing or, better yet, participating in the space robots competition, what other emotions can the European Rover Challenge evoke if not fun, excitement, curiosity and the thrill of rivalry? Let’s take a closer look at the 8th edition of the largest space robotics contest in Europe.
Sunday, September 11, 2022, marked the end of the 8th edition of the European Rover Challenge – a highly prestigious space robotics event and competition held annually in Poland.
The ERC 2022 took place on September 9-11, 2022, at the Kielce University of Technology in Poland and was held in two formulas: on-site and remote.
For the on-site formula of the ERC, teams of students from all over the world need to design and construct a fully functional Martian rover. The teams that get singled out in the process of qualification, have to compete with their mobile robot in Poland on a specially prepared surface simulating that of the Red Planet performing various demanding tasks.
In the remote formula of the contest, first introduced in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, each team uses the same equipment – a Leo Rover mobile robot and a UR robotic arm.
The teams can participate in this formula from any corner of the world as they simply connect remotely to the rover and navigate it across the Mars-like terrain performing tasks. The winning team is going to be the one who best prepares their software needed for the mission and shows great skills in team management.
As usual, the arena for the competition (for both formulas) was a large artificial Mars yard reflecting an actual terrain of the Red Planet. For the 2022 edition, the layout of the surface was built in the image of Martian plains called Elysium Plantitia and Utopia Plantitia.
The European Rover Challenge is no picnic for the contestants and the 2022 edtion was no exception. As research shows, the Martian plains the artificial track was inspired by in the 8th edition were formed by fire and ice. Hence, the participants were likely to run into some traces of water on the simulated terrain during the contest. Well, they did find traces of water, alright. Just not in the way the expected.
At some point, courtesy of the rainy weather, the ERC Mars yard turned into a wetland. While the regulations of the ERC allow for the competition to still proceed in the rain, it posed a challenge for both the participants and the organizers as the contestants' robots in the on-site formula needed to be protected so as not to get wet.
Even though the Leo Rover platform is watertight and a little rain and splashes won’t do it any harm, the extra equipment mounted on top of it is another story. And because of that, the rover wore a protective cover to seal the additional gear, as you can see in the picture below.
On the podium of the on-site formula of the 8th edition of the European Rover Challenge stood the following teams:
In the remote formula, the prizes went to:
Interestingly, the three best teams from the remote formula were the very teams whose videos I presented in the article on ERC Simulation Task. What were the odds? Maybe I’m a psychic ;).
Apart from the main prizes, some of the contestants of the ERC 2022 were awarded extra prizes and honorable mentions for remarkable performance in each category.
Besides the rover competition in which teams from the world over participated, there were other surprises and attractions for visitors. They could attend educational workshops, observe scientific experiments, and play around with space-related technologies. For instance, the visitors got to explore the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, see a replica of Neil Armstrong’s space suit, control robots and meet specialists from space agencies. There was also a dedicated Children’s Zone where the youngest visitors could learn about the universe in a mobile planetarium, principles of physics, and construct robotic devices.
As every year, in 2022, a major part of the European Rover Challenge was the Inspiration Zone, where visitors could attend a number of workshops and lectures. Every edition of the ERC lasts 3 days and each of them has its theme to which the experts’ lectures are devoted to, and they are Mars, the Moon and Earth.
If you’re a true space and robotics enthusiast, the European Rover Challenge is bound to be about your speed. Here, you’ll learn more about the previous edition, the ERC 2021. And if you’re curious how participants prepare for the remote formula of the ERC, read this article.