Skip to main content
WI Robotics rover equipment servicing
August 17, 2023

Wisconsin Robotics returns to Mars Desert Research Station

Written By: Caitlin Scott



The Wisconsin Robotics team traveled to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Hanksville, Utah this summer to compete in the University Rover Challenge.

The URC is an international competition for simulation rovers where teams complete a range of tasks from scientific analysis of collected samples to repairing a mock lander. It’s truly an interdisciplinary competition, and the Wisconsin group consists of scientists and engineers from all backgrounds.

Andrew Engedal WI Robotics
Andrew Engedal

Wisconsin Robotics team president Andrew Engedal shared that this year’s competition was very impactful. “Two years ago, the competition was cancelled because of COVID. Last year, we were unable to compete because not enough of our team was available to travel. So, we’ve been working on and improving this rover for three years, and it was awesome to see it in action. We continued to face challenges at the competition; some parts failed in the desert heat, and our gearboxes flooded with sand on our first day of testing in Utah. Despite this, we were always positive and ready to take on the next obstacle. One moment that was particularly memorable to me was when we lent a spare antenna to a team from Monash, Australia, who had their antenna broken during a storm.”

“The team placed 21st out of the 37 finalists and 104 teams competing worldwide! We’re very excited about this placement, especially because we can place much higher with the experience we gained,” said Engedal. “Many of the challenges we faced were from a lack of competition experience, and I’m confident that we’ll learn from our obstacles and do even better next year.” Learn more about the 2023 URC scores and finalists.

Wi robotics team at MDRS
From left to right Kohler Zuehlke, Ben Nowotny, Andrew Engedal, Andy Li, Kwasi Debrah-Pinamang, Sushanth Rao, and Alan Zheng. These were the members of the larger team that were able to travel to MDRS.

Featured image caption: Rover equipment servicing at the Mars Desert Research Station in June 2023.