ERC – 1st Place Finish

After finally getting some sleep last night – though not as much as we wanted – we got to the ERC competition grounds to complete our final event – the sample task. Luckily, our equipment was well-suited to the task, and we scored higher than any team up until that point! In particular, our drill for deep-soil sampling with a built in core-catcher, made us the only team to successfully retrieve a deep-soil sample.

Picking up a rock for the sample task

Picking up a rock for the sample task

Preparing the drill - note the rock safely secured in the back container

Preparing the drill – note the rock safely secured in the back container

We then had to write up a report on the samples we retrieved, and learned a bit about geology in the process.

After the task, we packed up the rover for shipment back to Canada, and headed into town for lunch.

We headed back to the competition site, and anxiously awaited the results with all of the other teams at the closing ceremony.

Waiting for the announcement of the winners at the closing ceremony

Waiting for the announcement of the winners at the closing ceremony

After hearing that McGill and #Next (of Poland) had placed in third and second respectively, we figured that we must have lost to both of them. It was absolutely unbelievable when they announced that USST had taken first place! There were a lot of interviews, photos, and general excitement. All of the work over the summer, and all of the work on Friday night had paid off! We also won some pretty exciting prizes, including 1000 USD and a 5000 PLN voucher, along with three Edison embedded computers.

Accepting our first place prizes in a state of overjoyed disbelief

Accepting our first place prizes in a state of overjoyed disbelief

We are so happy with our outcome, and we can’t wait to get some rest. We’re looking forward to continuing work on the rover, and have seen a lot of cool design ideas this weekend.

Thanks for checking in – looking forward to keeping our updates up in the future!

ERC – First Day of Competition

Today, the USST finished our first day of competition at ERC! As we suspected, we ended up staying up until around 4:30 am last night working on the rover, only to wake up at 5:30 am and head to the competition grounds, rover in tow. Some major issues with our GPS system, the LIDAR, and the writing of a presentation for a task were to blame.

Austin testing the GPS at 3:00 am...

Austin testing the GPS at 3:00 am…

Nonetheless, we ended up finding our way to the competition grounds this morning, and after a bit of confusion, set up the rover for our first task – the terrain traversal. Though we were using a rather jury-rigged GPS system which involved manually copying and pasting coordinates, and nearly drove onto the adjacent highway, we managed to do relatively well. We successfully made it to two of the three gates!

Soon after came the astronaut assistance task. We managed to find the tool required, and lift it in the air for the required ten seconds. However, as we had some problems with the linear actuators on the arm, we were unable to carry it to the target destination. Even so, according to the judges, we performed quite well.

After some sandwiches and a lot more work on the rover, we went to the maintenance task. All of the work put into the arm paid off, as we managed to score 60 of 70 possible points, and were the highest scoring team on the particular task by a margin of 20 points.

Attempting to plug in our homemade voltmeter

Attempting to plug in our homemade voltmeter

Successfully flipping the final switch, and enjoying the siren which it triggered!

Successfully flipping the final switch, and enjoying the siren that it triggered!

After the maintenance task, we had some time to put the finishing touches on our presentation, and presented it for a few of the judges. It received favourable reviews, and we are very excited for the science task tomorrow.

It was quite a bit to pack into one day, but well worth it. It’s quite an experience to see so many teams from around the world, and the vastly different designs they’ve come up with. We can’t wait to finish our last task and find out where we rank in the standings!

Arrived in Poland

After a solid sixteen hours of travel, the USST finally made it to Poland! After making it to our hotel, checking out Krakow’s Old Town, and sleeping for another eleven hours, we managed to find our way back to the airport to pick up our rental van, pictured below. As you can imagine, we a re all very thankful for Austin volunteering to drive that monster through Poland’s narrow and often confusing streets!

Our beautiful (and enormous) rental van.

Our beautiful (and enormous) rental van.

While we had initially planned to pick up the rover in Krakow on August 31, shipping delays meant that we had to travel to Warsaw (an unexpected stop) on September 2. In the meanwhile, we focused on designing and building a tower for the communications system, and writing code for our LIDAR navigation system in order to accurately plot obstacles. Austin received a call letting us know that the rover was available for pick-up, and he and I drove to a warehouse in one of Warsaw’s industrial districts.

As the guard at the warehouse didn’t speak anything other than Polish, it took a lot of phone calls and exasperated sighs to get into the compound. Once we did, we found ourselves trying (largely unsuccessfully) to communicate using a broken mess of English, Polish, Ukrainian, and German. Though it took us about an hour and a half, and we might not have signed something we were supposed to, we did finally get the rover into the van and back to the hotel!

As the rover was delayed a couple days in transit, the past few days have been packed with coding, testing, and making sure that everything is in order. Today I spent four hours walking around Kielce looking for a power inverter, amongst other things! We are all so excited (and perhaps a little stressed) for the competition to begin on Saturday morning.

Liam soldering on a plant pot outside our hotel in Kielce - sometimes you have to improvise!

Liam soldering on a plant pot outside our hotel in Kielce – sometimes you have to improvise!

Liam attempting to work out the inverse kinematic equations for the rover's arm on the plane ride to Frankfurt.

Liam attempting to work out the inverse kinematic equations for the rover’s arm on the plane ride to Frankfurt.

Liam, Austin, and Kyle enjoying Kielce's beautiful old town.

Liam, Austin, and Kyle enjoying Kielce’s beautiful old town.

USST Passes 2015 URC Critical Design Review

The USST has passed the final stage to attend the 2015 University Rover Challenge. While there was a record of 44 team’s to apply to the URC, only 23 were accepted to participate in this challenge. This decision was based on the critical design review where the team’s had to submit both a report, and a video for this. For more information on the accepted team’s the official announcement can be viewed here.

URC 2015 Critical Design Review Video

As a part of URC 2015, there will be a limit on the number of teams that can participate due to logistical challenges faced in last year’s competition. The final milestone before the competition the team must pass before competition is to complete the critical design review. One aspect of this is a video that demonstrates the progress of the team on its design and construction. Check out our video submission!