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Polish hybrid ERC MarsYard officially opened

Preparations for the sixth edition of the ERC Space and Robotics Event have entered the next phase. This year’s event is carried out in a hybrid formula using technologies that enable teams from around the world to remotely participate in the competition. The American remote management system and mobile vehicles provided by a Polish robotic start-up were used to create an innovative platform. In September teams will use this system to remotely control the robot located on the Martian track in Poland. This is the first solution of this type in the world.

33 teams from 14 countries around the world qualified for the ERC 2020 finals, which will take place on September 11-13, 2020 (the full list of teams is available at www.roverchallenge.eu). In the next stage of the competition, the finalists are faced with the task of programming a robot to take part in the competition and testing the algorithms that allow the vehicle to be navigated from a distance. The latter will be enabled by a system for remote robot management, designed especially for the ERC competition, which was publicly presented on August 5. The first test run was made by Wojciech Murdzek, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Poland. He noted after the test:

As an engineer, I am impressed with the creativity with which the organizers of the competition approached the implementation of this year’s edition of the ERC competition. The spirit of innovation, team cooperation and focus on finding non-standard solutions to interdisciplinary problems are the features that Poles are known for abroad. And today, thanks to this approach, we can boast that the ERC is the only space-robotic tournament in the world that will take place after the declaration of a global pandemic.

The hybrid formula of ERC 2020 is not the only novelty of the sixth edition of the event. This year – for the first time in the history of the competition – the special Best Design Award was awarded for the best robotic rover design. The initiator of this award is the Warsaw-based company SENER Polska, which designed and made, among others, Martian umbilical cord for the European ExoMars rover. Among the winners, selected on the basis of the technical documentation sent by the teams, are: AGH Space Systems from Poland as well as STAR Dresden e.V and ERIG e.V from Germany. The winning teams will have the opportunity to participate in a webinar with experts from the international SENER group who worked on NASA and the European Space Agency Mars missions.

The new formula of the ERC competition, to an even greater extent than in previous editions, emphasizes the autonomy of projects created by teams. During the ERC 2020 final, competitors will be able to control the Polish LEO Rover robots using algorithms, commands or a manipulator.

In addition to two field competitions, which this year are strongly focused on developing programming skills, we also prepare non-competition sets of tasks for engineers based on mechanical and electrical analysis – explains Łukasz Wilczyński from the European Space Foundation, the main organizer of the competition. Additionally, an extensive online training and workshop program will be waiting for all competitors in September. By conducting them in a remote formula, we also enable those team members who have not yet come to the ERC finals to Poland to participate in training – he adds.

The international competition of mobile robots ERC 2020 will also be accompanied by an industry conference as well as the Science and Technology Show Zone with an extensive program of workshops, interactive shows and popular science lectures. Space, robotics and high technology enthusiasts will also be able to take part in the ERC Rover Mechanic Challenge e-tournament based on the world’s only Mars rover repair simulator.

ERC 2020 is co-organized by the European Space Foundation, the Special Economic Zone “Starachowice” S.A., Kielce University of Technology, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship with the support of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, which co-financed the project upon the “Social Responsibility of Science” program of the Minister of Science and Higher Education.

The honorary patronage over the event was taken by the European Space Agency, the Ministry of Development, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center and the PIONIER National Science and Research Network. Kielce is the Host City of the event.

The partners of the event are: Polish Space Agency, Mars Society Polska, Poznań University of Technology, MathWorks, Leo Rover, Pyramid Games and SENER Polska, the Polish Association of Space Professionals PSPA, DPS Software, Freedom Robotics. The co-organizer of the industry conference accompanying the event is the Kozminski University.

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