Let's Make Robots!

The Mystics - NASA Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge Entry

NASA Centennial Challenge to locate and return samples to a starting platform.

These three robots built on a Wild Thumper 6WD (75:1) chassis were an entry in the 2013 NASA Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge. Twelve teams originally entered the challenge. Ten teams came to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute but only 9 passed the inspection of the judges. 


My Mystic Lake robots passed inspection but due to hardware issues in the last month the software was incomplete. Regardless, there was some software running. During the second run the three robots did the following:

  • One died due to an uknown right now computer failure. It will not boot at the moment. 
  • One manuvered but got stuck on a large concrete block next to a tree. It tried to burrow under but did not succeed.
  • One manuvered up a hill, turned, drove toward the lake, detected the orange boundary fence, turned at the fence, went between a tree an the fence and finally tried to turn uphill at another section of fence. The uphill turn and a slight dropoff in the ground caused Mystic Two to rollover. 

The video from Mystic Three is in the URLs posted with the project. The run of Three was the longest the challenge has seen in the two events that have taken place. 

On Facebook, NASA Technology acknowledge the inegnuity of using the Thumper and all off-the-shelf components. The Mystics were the lightest, smallest, and least expensive rovers in the competition.

This was a year for research and testing. Next year the Mystics' software will be ready and they should collect samples without any problems. The teams that did collect samples this year all competed last year. 

I will update this in the next day or so with a link to photos. 

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Here is a video taken by NASA. The Mystics are shown a couple times. One is a closeup of the pan/tilt camera mount. I am in the background. The other is of Mystic Two's intrepid journey. The shot is taken right as Two turns to avoid the orange fence marking the boundary of the field.


This is great stuff. very impressive indeed.

I drove down from NH with my son and was there on Saturday.  I don't think I saw you or your robots, but there were a lot of people there.  I will definitely look for you next year. 

Seeing all the cool hardware and technology really got me psyched to complete the projects I am working on now.  My fourteen year old son wants to go to WPI and do robotics so definitely worth the trip if it gets him motivated.  What a great time!  I hope you had fun too.


The experience was unbelievable. 

We were in the practice area from 12:30 until 2:30 or so. I was totally worn out after talking to all the people who stopped by to see us. 

NASA Centennial Challenges picked up this page and posted it on Facebook. Drop by https://www.facebook.com/nasacc. Also shared by NASA Technology and some others.