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UMass Lowell Students to Test Robot for NASA Competition

Team to Assess Mars-style Rover’s Abilities at University’s Robotics Center


Contacts:   Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or
                 Jeff Cournoyer, 978-934-3332 or

* M E D I A   A D V I S O R Y *

Thursday, May 30
10 a.m. to noon

WHAT:  A team of UMass Lowell engineering students who have built a Mars rover-style robot for a national NASA competition will practice for the contest to be held next week. 

The team is one of only eight in the nation chosen to compete in the RASC-AL Exploration Robo-ops Competition. Teams must put their robot through a series of field tests at NASA’s training headquarters in Houston via remote control on June 4 through June 6. 

This is the first year UMass Lowell’s team – known as the Rover Hawks, a play on the university’s sports teams, the River Hawks – was selected by NASA for the competition, which awarded the team $10,000 to build the robot. The team that can best remotely control its rover as it winds its way through obstacles and completes tasks such as negotiating inclines, traversing gravel pits and picking up rocks in a set time will win. Rover Hawks members, who built the robot at UMass Lowell, will control it during the competition from the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center at UMass Lowell.

In preparation to compete, the team will put the rover through its paces at the NERVE Center, testing its camera system, control devices and its ability to identify and pick up rocks and negotiate sand and gravel pits. Opened in February, the NERVE Center is the country’s most advanced robotics-testing facility. 

The Rover Hawks are advised by UMass Lowell computer science Prof. Holly Yanco, a renowned robotics expert. Team members hail from Acton, Bridgewater, Chelmsford, Dennis, Dracut, Ipswich, Lawrence, Lowell, Northborough, Peabody, Raynham, Rockport and Tewksbury; Brookline and Salem, N.H.; and Bronx, N.Y.   

WHERE:  New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation Center, 1001 Pawtucket Blvd., Lowell. For directions and parking information, contact UMass Lowell media relations.