EVERETT, Wash. – Yesterday, engineering students from Washington State University’s North Puget Sound at Everett campus earned the second seed in the final round of an international competition that asks university students to design and manufacture a Mars rover meant to be able to work alongside human explorers on the surface of the Red Planet.
The WSU Everett team was one of 30 semifinalists representing seven countries, including the United States, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, India, Poland and South Korea. Of the teams that competed Thursday, 14 will advance to the final round which takes place over the next two days.
The Mars Desert Research Station is a private proving ground situated far from the public eye, on Cow Dung Road in southern Utah’s rocky, rust-colored barrens. It is open only by appointment, and only to researchers involved in scientific inquiry.
For students like Blaine Liukko, a recent graduate from WSU North Puget Sound at Everett, the journey to Mars goes through that small town in Utah.
“So far, this has been an amazing experience. It is incredible to see how engineering students from different parts of the world attack the same tasks as us,” Liukko said after the first day of competition. “Every engineer has a different interpretation of what will complete each task best, and it has been great to share ideas and compete with other teams from around the world.”
Liukko, a 24-year-old mechanical engineering major from Lynnwood, has been president of the 20-member Engineering Club at Everett for the 2015-2016 academic year. The club has spent more than a year building an experimental prototype Mars rover.
WSU Everett students are applying what they learn in real-life projects, giving them a hands-on experience that few engineering students obtain through their education. They are getting practical experience in the fields that companies like Boeing are looking for – electrical, software and mechanical engineering. And they won’t need to look far to start their careers.
An investment by the community
Designing and building the Mars rover was expensive and requires some very specific materials. But local industries and the Cougar Nation have been generous.
“It was great to get support from companies like Boeing and Janicki Industries, particularly because some of our team members can and will work there after graduating,” said Liukko.
Boeing and Janicki both donated carbon fiber. Everett Steel, Metal Supermarkets and Protocase provided aluminum, brass and stainless steel. To power the rover, Pacific Power Batteries donated a 4.5 pound lithium iron phosphate battery. And Dassault Systemes gave the team software licenses so students could design the rover.
Final round June 3-4
The team from Rzeszow University of Technology in Poland earned the top seed for the final round of the competition. The winner will be announced after the final round of competition on Saturday.
“Our team has put hundreds of hours into the design, testing and manufacturing of this rover, and the fact that we know now that we will compete against 29 other universities from seven different countries is a tremendous honor,” Liukko said.
Follow the team’s progress over the next two days on Facebook.