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UNB’s NASA Rover Challenge Team is Canada’s first in global competition

UNB’s newly created Mars Rover Team will be competing in NASA’s Human Rover Challenge for the first time next spring.

“NASA asked students from all around the world to build and design a space rover. Once that’s built, in April all the different teams from various universities get to compete in Alabama at the US Space and Rocket Center,” said Nicolas Poirier, the team’s captain and a third-year mechanical engineering student at UNB.

Competitors will test the final designs of their rovers in the form of an obstacle course that stretches nearly a mile long. The course comes equipped with extraterrestrial terrain including craters and boulders.

“Teams from all over the world are competing to have bragging rights. Last year Canada didn’t send any teams. We are, so far, the sole Canadian team that’s going to be competing,” said third-year electrical engineering student Jordan Jamison.

The competition itself is a timed race through the obstacle course. All rovers are man-powered by pedals. A team’s time can be penalized if a member has to get out of the rover and push it.

“The rover itself is supposed to simulate what it would be like in space. So for example there can’t be any air in the tires because you can’t have air [in space] due to the atmosphere. There’s a lot of parameters that we’re going to have to work around, but that’s part of the competition,” said Jamison.

Each team is to be made up of no more than six members, each with different roles.

“We all come from different backgrounds of engineering … it’s all going to come together quite nicely by the time April rolls around,” Jamison said.

The University of Puerto Rico won the challenge last year. UNB’s team will be the first ever to compete from New Brunswick.

“It’s mostly to test what we’ve learned in class and see what we can do. We see how we compare to other universities and other students,” said Poirier.

All of the work put into designing and building the rover is done on the team’s own time. On top of this, they need to fund the trip themselves.

“We are actively looking for sponsors and people to help us get to Alabama. It’s going to be a big task not only getting ourselves there but our rover as well; it needs to be shipped,” said Jamison.

Poirier and Jamison hope to make the Human Rover Challenge a tradition for UNB’s engineering students.

“We want this to be a sustainable team where year after year we can hopefully send UNB down to represent Canada at this challenge. This is another opportunity for us to show what UNB has to offer,” said Jamison.

Jamison said the competition will likely give UNB attention as a successful academic institution.

“It’s going to be awesome to compare us to different universities from all over,” he said.

“We’re going to bring back a lot.”

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