WPI students win RASC-AL competition for second consecutive year

A student robotics team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) won the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Exploration Robo-Ops Competition for the second consecutive year.


For the second consecutive year, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student robotics engineering team has won the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Exploration Robo-Ops Competition sponsored by NASA and organized by the National Institute of Aerospace.

The tournament was held from May 30 to June 1 at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Rock Yard in Houston, Texas. In this year’s Robo-Ops competition, eight university teams were challenged to design and build a planetary rover and demonstrate its capability to perform a series of competitive tasks, which include negotiating specified upslopes and downslopes, traversing sand and gravel pits, picking up specific rock samples and placing them on the rover for the remainder of the course, and driving over rocks of specified diameter. A portion of the WPI team fielded the Oryx 2.0 robot in Houston, while the control team operated it from the Worcester campus.

During the one-hour performance run, WPI located and stored 13 rock samples and one alien life form, far outdistancing CalTech, with four rock samples and one alien life form, and the University of Maryland, with two rock samples. There were five other teams in the competition.

University teams at both graduate and undergraduate levels were eligible to compete in RASC-AL, and each team included a faculty advisor. Qualifying teams were selected to receive a stipend to purchase materials and travel to the Johnson Space Center, where the rovers compete on a planetary analog environment under the supervision of NASA judges. Up to three members of the team, plus the faculty advisor, traveled to Johnson Space Center for the on-site testing. The remaining team members stayed behind at their local universities to conduct "mission control" tasks. The prototype rovers were tele-operated by the university team and were required negotiate a series of obstacles while accomplishing relevant tasks in the quickest time. 

WPI team advisors for the RASC-AL competition were Padir, Robotics Resource Center director Kenneth Stafford and Brad Miller. Team members were Joe Amato, Jon Anderson, Tom Carlone, Michael Fagan, Ennio Claretti, Mitchell Wills and graduate students Velin Dimitrov and Ryan Linton.

The WPI team received a $10,000 stipend to partially offset the cost of rover hardware, public engagement activities and travel to the competition. In addition, the 1st Place Award included $5,000 and a travel stipend to attend Desert RATS in the fall, where a NASA-led team conducts technology development research and analog testing in the Arizona desert.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)


- Edited by Chris Vavra, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com 

See more about robotics and motion control at controleng.com/machinecontrol

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