York University places 2nd in Mars rover contest

Toronto's York University places second in an international competition to see who could best build and use a robotic rover on a Mars-like landscape.

Toronto's York University placed second in an international competition to see who could best build and use a robotic rover on a Mars-like landscape.

The University Rover Challenge, put on annually by the international Mars Society, was won by the Bialystok University of Technology in Poland, who beat out seven other teams from Canada and the United States.

York University repeated a second-place showing from last year. Team members said in an email to CBC on Sunday that they were happy with their rover, called EVE, and its performance in the rugged sandstone desert near Hanksville, Utah.

"Although we were well prepared before the competition, the desert environment and harsh operating conditions required many last-minute repairs and alterations," the message said. "This is true for all the teams, but as always our success came from our ability to fix the rover in situ and get back to the task, while other teams were left stranded."

The University of Waterloo also took part in the competition, finishing out of the top three.

The rovers are awarded points for completing four scientific tasks:

  • Surveying a site to locate markers that should be visible from specific vantage points.
  • Collecting and returning a sample likely to contain photosynthetic bacteria, other colonies of bacteria, or other organisms such as lichens.
  • Delivering supplies to mock astronauts out in the desert.
  • Servicing equipment by pushing buttons, flipping switches and connecting three-prong electric plugs into outlets at an instrument panel.

York's rover cost about $13,000 to build, slightly below the $15,000 maximum allowed. The cost was sponsored by York University, Ontario Centres of Excellence and MDA, a B.C.-based defence contractor.