BYU students compete to build Mars rover

Posted at 9:34 PM, Jun 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-04 23:34:50-04

PROVO, Utah -- Engineering students at Brigham Young University are wrapping up a four-day competition Saturday, and their task was to build something that can boldly go where no human has gone before.

Most of these students will never set foot on Mars, but someday the fruits of their labor could visit the Red Planet.

“So this is not a rover that would be on Mars right now, this is what would go with an astronaut to Mars to help them out,” said Eric Homer, a professor of engineering at BYU.

Fourteen engineering students built the rover, or to put it another way, they assembled a cardboard box filled with a spaghetti-style tangle of wires.

“So they’ve been designing this for the past year, and we're actually building up on two previous year’s efforts to design this rover,” Homer said.

A lot goes into construction of the rover, which the students have lovingly named "Hal".

“Specifically, some of the tasks require us to grab a hold of things and twist things and so forth, and that’s a significant challenge, it’s not trivial," student David Linsdey said.

The students are one of 30 teams from across the globe competing in the University Rover competition held by the Mars Society.

The competition is in Hanksville, a Utah town known for Mars-like qualities.

“I believe there was a Life or a Time issue a while back where they showed Mars and Hanksville pictures side-by-side to show how similar they are,” Homer said.

Last year, the BYU team took second, and this year they're aiming for the top prize.

But above all, they said they enjoy the challenge that "Hal" provides.

“We like to see things break all the way up to the competition because we can see where our weak points are going to be at, and then we can address those points and see whether or not we can fix them,” Homer said.

The team says "Hal" won't actually make it to Mars this time around, but they're hoping the competition will convince NASA to launch another mission to the Red Planet.

The team’s rover is named for Hal from the classic film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”