European Rover Challenge is a renowned robotics competition organised each year by the European Space Foundation. This year's (2018) European Rover Challenge took place from September 14 to 16 in Poland. Technology enthusiasts from all over the world were eager to participate in this esteemed competition, which focuses mainly on building Mars Rover. As the name states, the competition requires the teams to create a robot similar to the ones sent for exploration in Mars and control it for performing various tasks in scenarios identical to that of Mars. The simulated environment and the difficulty of the task are what makes this competition challenging and attractive.
Selection procedure of the competition
There were several tasks from even before the actual competition started. The participants had to submit preliminary reports right after registering, putting into the plans and ideas they wanted to implement. Teams were selected based on the marks they scored on the preliminary reports and 65 teams from 50 different countries, including four teams from Bangladesh, moved to the main competition through this process. Other than Islamic University of Technology (IUT) Avijatrik team, three other teams from Bangladesh were IUT Mars Rover, Ogrodoot from Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (RUET) and AUST Little Step from Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST).
The selected teams had to make a short film known as Critical Design Review (CDR). On that video, the teams had to introduce their members, showcase the work processes and reveal the rover.
Dedication and passion behind the project
The entire rover of IUT Avijatrik was built out of pocket money and love of few enthusiastic and ambitious students without any professional help, and initially, no funding was managed.
Despite the tight schedules of relentless classes, quizzes, assignments and myriad academic burdens, the students managed to squeeze out the time and work on building their dream project. The rules were published long before the competition was started and the rover was developed following the tasks laid out. The unavailability of required components in Gazipur (location of Islamic University of Technology) meant the students had to make trips on numerous occasions to another part of the city, Puran Dhaka (Old Dhaka), which is known for its wide range of goods. On such circumstances, an entire day was wasted due to traffic jams and several uncalled-for inconveniences that the team faced while travelling in Dhaka city. Many robotic parts had to be imported from other countries as well, and in such scenarios, complications were extreme, and colossal sums had to be paid to release those.
There was always a cloud of uncertainty hovering over their heads, but there were belief and dedication that made it possible for them to achieve this magnificent result.
The tasks in the competition ground
Upon reaching the competition grounds, teams had to perform four different tasks - collection task, maintenance task, science task and presentation task.
The tasks did not go as smoothly even after months of preparations because the field of robotics is uncertain. Right before one of the tasks, one of the motors attached to the wheel broke down. The hand needed for maintenance and collection task stopped working in the middle of the task, and the team had to back off from the field. Luckily, the presence of expert hands and backups on the spot helped to overcome such dire situations. In spite of all these dilemmas in every possible situation, the positive part is that everyone learnt from it and gained a vast amount of experience that can amount to none.
Meeting up with foreign teams and real-time observation of the technological advancements helped to garner a significant amount of knowledge, which can be used in the future and implemented for the improvements in the robotics field.
Experience of Team IUT Avijatrik
Being top in Bangladesh is no wonder a great achievement and added to the fact that teams from India were also behind Team IUT Avijatrik is something to be proud of. This does not mean the team will settle down and cherish on their result for a long time because already preparations are being made for competing in the next instalment of the worldwide rover competition - Indian Rover Challenge.
The story of this rover can inspire thousands of technology enthusiasts all over the country, and the team plans to showcase the rover in different schools and colleges to get the students acquainted with this top of the line technology at a tender age to grow interests among them.
The team is focusing on making further technical improvements and overcome past inabilities to bring more glorious results for the country soon. The team leader Hossain Mohammad Seym said, "Dedication and hard work can take you to places you never expected to be. What I learned from my experience is that nothing is impossible, the key is never to give up."
The writer is currently studying in the final year of Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at Islamic University of Technology (IUT). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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