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Lodz University of Technology students’ worldwide success in building Mars rovers

Where did your adventure with robots begin?

For most of us, the adventure with robots began during studies, when we joined the Raptors team. Some had already been building their own robots as a hobby, such as from Lego Mindstorms kits or were programming Arduino microcontrollers. 

However, the idea for the team appeared in 2014, when the first edition of the European Rover Challenge Mars rover competition was announced in Poland. That’s when a group of students got together and created the first version of the robot. Since then, the project has been constantly developed and improved. In the meantime, the team has expanded its focus to include drones.

What projects are you currently working on?

The projects we are working on are mainly related to the development of land robots and flying robots. 

In the case of the rover, we are working on several modules and functionalities of the rover in parallel. The mechanical challenge is to build a robot whose weight will not exceed 50 kg (this is a very low limit). A new body, manipulator, sampler (an instrument used to collect and analyze soil samples) and a new six-wheel suspension are being developed. 

In parallel, a fully protected power module is being developed in the electronics department – with a battery management system and inverters that will have any customizable voltage levels.

Programmers, meanwhile, are working on software that will allow the rover to move as autonomously as possible, that is, without human intervention. In addition to designing the robots themselves, a major challenge is raising finances for the projects and traveling to competitions, which is handled by our PR section. 

As for the development of drones, our projects are mainly related to their control, autonomy, vision systems and machine learning. We want to test the robots under development at the Martian rover competitions (in which drones can also participate starting this year) and at flying robot competitions, i.e. Droniada.

In addition to direct tasks related to our robots, we are also engaged in other projects. Currently, we are working on the development of an automated 3D printer farm. The main goal of this project is to be able to take finished prints out of the printers using a mobile robot with a manipulator.

It was also a big challenge for us to rebuild the team after the pandemic period, when a large part of the scientific clubs could not fully function. Most competitions were canceled or postponed. At the moment, we have a lot of new members who are learning from more experienced people how to work on projects. 

What are your biggest achievements that you are most proud of?

It is difficult for us to choose one greatest achievement. We are proud of all our successes. Each appearance at competitions and winning a place on the podium is a huge honor, which we are always very happy about. The mere fact of qualifying and then competing at a competition and being able to compete with the best teams from around the world is also very motivating.

Successes for us are also the stages reached in the design of the robot. For those who have spent many hours creating a feature, the greatest satisfaction is to see that it works as intended.

What are your plans for 2023?

This year we want to enter the URC, CIRC and ERC Martian rover competitions with new members. This yeare editions are taking place in the United States, Canada and Poland. We also plan to participate in flying robot competitions – Droniada and ICUAS’23 UAV Competition.

We are currently working with several companies on various projects, mainly concerning autonomous operation of the manipulator to perform certain activities using vision systems. We are also focusing on expanding contacts with new partners. 

Why is it important to get involved in scientific circles, student organizations? What would you recommend to your younger colleagues?

We think it’s very important to get involved in scientific clubs, because it allows you to expand and use the knowledge you gain in your studies. Here, additional experience can be gained on many levels, from practical knowledge to soft skills. Working together on a project allows you to exchange ideas, skills and expertise, which influences faster development. Student clubs are an opportunity to meet people with similar interests. Student organizations enable unforgettable adventures that everyone should experience during their studies, and the experience gained is also a valuable asset for future employers.

Raptors Team

The Raptors team was established in 2014. It operates as part of the student robotics club SKaNeR, whose supervisor is Prof. ucz. dr. hab. inż. Grzegorz Granosik. The team’s goal is to build mobile robots – flying and land robots – and test them at various competitions of inspection and rescue robots, flying robots up to Mars rovers. The team has repeatedly taken high places on the podium. Recent successes include: 1st place at the ERL Emergency competition and 3rd place at the WRS competition in Japan. Read more about the team at:

Written by:

Joanna Rancew

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