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AGH students defeated over 100 teams with their Mars rover. Kalman took first place

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The Kalman Mars rover from the Krakow University of Science and Technology turned out to be the best in the world. The Polish team won the prestigious University Rover Challenge 2024 competition, defeating as many as 102 teams from around the world. Teams competed in four missions, in conditions as close to space as possible.

Mission completed! The Kalman rover triumphed at the competition in the United States. The competition was fierce. The team of the AGH University of Science and Technology beat last year's winner by less than a point during the most prestigious and largest robot competition in the world.

– This year, as many as 102 teams took part, only 38 qualified for the final, and these are teams from five continents – says Natalia Mizera, member of AGH Space Systems. The teams faced four tasks that the Mars rover will have to cope with during real space missions.

– The area where the competition takes place is Mars Desert Station. It actually closely resembles the terrain of Mars. These are desert areas, rocks that are really untouched because it is a research area – says Natalia Mizera.

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– Each focuses on slightly different aspects. The first one on conclusions from the rover's passage, more focused on scientific research. The second competition was on autonomous navigation, the third and fourth were more focused on the ability to move objects, transport objects, find various types of objects – says Szymon Bednorz, member of AGH Space Systems.

Taking part in the competition required Kalman's special preparation. – We are one of the few to have differential suspension, which works on the principle that I lift one wheel and at that moment the other three wheels are pressed harder, which gives us an advantage. Four independently turning wheels – says Arkadiusz Mika from AGH Space Systems.

Kalman has been successful for years

The team consists of 30 people. These are the best students of the AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków. – The lion's share, 90 percent, I would say, is created by us. From mechanics, through electronic issues, board design, through algorithms for autonomous navigation, to various methods of soil testing – says Mateusz Olszewski from AGH Space Systems.

– Whether in electronics, mechanics or research tasks, we must constantly improve it. Every competition we take part in is not the same. They are completely different. In every competition, new challenges and new competitions arise every year – explains Mariusz Gibiec, PhD, engineer, supervisor of AGH Space Systems.

Even the rover's tires were designed by students from AGH.

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18,000 euros for two months of lying in bed. The scientists' experiment is to investigate the effect of microgravity on humansHubert Kijek/Fakty o Świecie TVN24 BiS

Kalman has been successful for years. Every year, before every competition, mechanics, programmers and scientists work on its reliability.

– What distinguishes us from other teams is that we perform most of the calculations on the computer at the station, on our laptop, and we only send this data to the rover, and it is actually a bit of a remotely controlled car – says Kacper Iwicki, member of AGH Space Systems.

More challenges lie ahead for the rover

– A large number of teams lose because the rover didn't run, it's not that obvious. However, in the laboratory we can perform tests that are synthetic, they are prepared, we know what is happening. However, we are under time pressure, because before each competition we only have 10 minutes to prepare the rover for driving – says Łukasz Kwinta from AGH Space Systems.

During the mission, the operator does not see the rover, he controls it remotely.

– We have visions from various places on the rover, cameras that are, for example, high on the mast and see the entire rover as if from above, from the manipulator. We display visions from the rover on our monitors and try to steer it around, and sometimes we also have GPS and a map, let's say, a satellite view, to make things easier, says Łukasz Kwinta.

One of the competitions involved overcoming difficult Martian terrain, but without operator support. Kalman did an exemplary job.

– The biggest challenge was autonomous driving. We simply give the rover a destination to go to and it follows it, avoiding obstacles and using cameras to detect various rocks and obstacles. It was one of the biggest challenges. As part of the task, there were also two elements to detect: a bottle and a hammer – says Kacper Iwicki.

READ ALSO: Chinese success and US concern. “We are taking part in a new space race”

Kalman faces further challenges. The team begins preparations for the next competition in September.

– The next competition we are preparing for is the European Challenge 2024. The largest European competition again for planetary rovers and robotics in general, will take place here in Krakow at the AGH University of Science and Technology – says Szymon Bednorz.

Main photo source: TVN24

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