Robotics Challenge visits the Great Sand Dunes

ALAMOSA – The 2019 Colorado Robotics Challenge tested the limits of technology at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The event drew teams from high schools, colleges/universities as well as independents from all across the state.  The presenters of the challenge were Adams State University and NASA’s Colorado Space Grant Consortium (COSGC).

According to the COSGC website, the event was inspired by the mission of “Viking Landers”, robotics engineered by NASA that first landed on Mars thirty years ago. The cameras for the mission were designed in Colorado and were first tested at the Great Sand Dunes. The association between the dunes and missions to Mars has continued because the surfaces are remarkably similar.

The challenge was designed to simulate a mission to Mars in order to have a means of improving knowledge within the robotics field and to foster learning. Each team had a mentor/advisor to assist them. The COSGC further noted that the robots had to meet certain requirements which included 1) The ability to move forward; 2) Avoid course obstacles; 3) Navigate using compass heading; and/or 4) Navigate to a Beacon. The teams were also expected have reprograming and diagnostic capabilities for their robots. The teams had to work around a difficult environment that is not found in the laboratory.

The teams arrived in Alamosa on April 12th. The event opened with each of the teams giving presentations on their respective entries at Porter Hall at ASU along with a pizza social. The morning of the 13th brought the open course challenge where the teams were able to pit the capabilities of their robots against the elements. The teams had the opportunity to learn how the systems of their robots could be improve and exchange information with other teams.

The challenge was deemed a success and the COSGC is grateful to the National Park Service and Adams State for their partnership.


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