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Rovers: PolyOrbite will represent Polytechnique Montréal at the Canadian International Rover Challenge competition

August 12, 2021 - Source : NEWS

For the first time, the Polytechnique Technical Society will participate in a rover skills competition to be held in Drumheller, Alberta, August 13-16, 2021.

L’astromobile Espérance de la société technique PolyOrbite. (Photo : PolyOrbite)

The PolyOrbite Technical Society's "Espérance" rover.  (Photo: PolyOrbite)

PolyOrbite, whose activities address the design and manufacture of a CubeSat satellite and a rover, will participate in the fourth edition of the Canadian International Rover Challenge – CIRC competition, whose theme this year is: "Disaster has struck a Martian settlement!” The latter theme centers around carrying out a mission to the planet Mars following an accident at a nuclear complex.

A rover is a vehicle designed to explore and study the surface of a star, and is generally used for scientific research purposes, particularly in imaging, for taking samples, etc.* These types of vehicles are generally-speaking, operated via remote control from a control center, but they are also partially autonomous.

"Each team will have to perform five tasks using its rover, including one night-time task, and another task in collaborative mode with other robots," explains Simon Micheau, Director of PolyOrbite’s Rover Division. Micheau will begin his fourth year in the Mechanical Engineering Bachelor's degree program this autumn. "The latter scenario is similar to an intervention on a Martian base - coming to help astronauts - but this time on the rough terrain of Alberta's badlands.” PolyOrbite - which established its rover-dedicated division in 2019 - had the goal of participating in the 2020 edition of the CIRC challenge.

However, last year's competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so as a result, the Technical Society will test its mettle now, in 2021. As the competition is set to take place on Canadian soil, eleven students will be heading to the challenge venues in Alberta. “The CIRC presents us with the perfect opportunity to make a grand entrance into university rover competitions - unveiling the culmination of two years of hard work," emphasizes Micheau.

Espérance Rover's first challenge

PolyOrbite will take part in the CIRC challenge with its first rover, named Espérance by team members.

Weighing around 50 kilograms and measuring 1.2 meters in length by 1.2 meters in width by 94 centimeters in height, Esperance has an aluminum frame, and suspension similar to that of other rovers active on Mars. It has six wheels, designed and manufactured by members of the Technical Society, which are driven by six electric motors. Its robotic arm can be equipped with a shovel, pliers, or a drill. Its series of lithium-ion batteries and electrical system were designed and assembled in-house at Polytechnique.

For its operation via remote control (i.e. without direct view), the rover is equipped with a geolocation system and an antenna which will permit a network link to be established with a land-based telecommunications station within a one kilometer radius. Espérance is also equipped with three cameras which will be used for navigation, for robotic arm manipulation, and to present an overview of the rover's status. Esperance will be controlled using a Linux operating system computer and free software ROS (Robotic Operating System) which has been programmed in Python and C ++ languages.

“The robotic arm, as well as the on-board computer and control systems, were worked on by two master's students, as part of their academic program. Further, several people who were studying in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering for their training took part in the project as part of their third-year integrative project. It's great that so many students participated in our project. In fact, next year, a group of seven mechanical and electrical engineering students will work on the robotic arm as part of the integrative project for their program's fourth year," notes Micheau.

Des membres de PolyOrbite ont complété l'assemblage de l'astromobile «Espérance» et réalisé les tests finaux ce mercredi, tard en soirée.
PolyOrbite members completed the "Esperance" rover’s assembly, and performed final tests late in the evening this past Wednesday.

Learn, exchange, and be amused!

At the dawn of its first participation in the CIRC challenge, PolyOrbite's goal is to be able to complete the challenge. "We know that the competition will be difficult, but we believe we can earn a solid score," says Micheau.

“We'll be able to gain experience there, be able to discuss with other teams, and we'll have the opportunity to have fun! Since this is the just the beginning of our rover division, this competition will enable us to establish a good foundation. And if we happen come back home with the trophy - well, that would be amazing!" Micheau adds.

Four university teams will take part in the 2021 edition of the competition; COVID-19 has prevented several teams from participating in the challenge, or from completing their rover on time. The other participating delegations will come from the Université de Sherbrooke, the University of Alberta and the from the U.S.’s Oregon State University - all members been vaccinated and will be able to travel to Canada. Follow PolyOrbite's exciting activities by through their social media on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Good luck to PolyOrbite and their rover!

* Source: Grand dictionnaire terminologique from the Office québécois de la langue française.

Learn more

PolyOrbite Technical Society website
Canadian International Rover Challenge website

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