About the Project

The Calvin Mars Rover Design Team was started in September of 2018 by freshmen Sam Dare and Fenton Lawler. Both had FIRST Robotics Competition experience. Sam had led team 4256 in St. Louis, Missouri, and Fenton had led team 503, in Novi, Michigan. Both felt Calvin College was seriously missing something from their engineering curriculum – extracurricular design teams. Fenton and Sam looked at a variety of college level design competitions, but they ultimately settled on the University Rover Challenge for a variety of reasons.

First, both had a large interest in space. This was the time when Elon Musk was unveiling part after part of his Mars transportation system and blowing engineers away with SpaceX’s BFR. Mars exploration seemed like a problem not enough people talk about because people for the most part see it as much further down the line than it is in actuality. With a space themed design team at Calvin, we can get people to wrap their minds around one day settling on the red planet.

Also, the University Rover Challenge is hard. It is designed, according to the Mars Society, to seem impossible to college students. Through hard work and dedication, though, such tasks are possible. Unlike a lot of other design challenges, this one more or less has the team completely redesign their project every single year, meaning it should stay fresh for years of Calvin students to come.

The Mars Rover Team was specifically created to compete in the annual University Rover Challenge (URC) hosted by The Mars Society. The Mars Society is an international nonprofit organization that seeks to encourage space exploration and technologies. They hold this competition every summer at their analogue desert research station in Utah. The competition is to “Design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that will one day work alongside human explorers in the field” (The Mars Society). The competition is in its 10th year of operation, and has been attended by around 200 universities, including teams from Europe and Canada.

The URC was created for students to design, construct, and test a remote controlled rover capable of completing specific tasks. The rover will be judged by the Mars Society on its successful completion of these challenges. Challenges of past competitions include; a site survey task, a sample return task, an astronaut assistance task, an equipment servicing task, and a team presentation. Certain aspects of the rover have been consistent from year to year and will serve as principle design features of the rover; however, each year a new set of challenges is chosen.