2014-14: NASA/NIA Announce 2014 Robo-Ops Competition Winners

2014-14: NASA/NIA Announce 2014 Robo-Ops Competition Winners

News release


National Institute of Aerospace (NIA)

100 Exploration Way

Hampton, VA 23666

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   June 16, 2014

Harla Sherwood

National Institute of Aerospace, Hampton, Va.



NIA Release: 2014-14
Hampton, Va. – Eight university teams participated in NASA’s RASC-AL Exploration Robo-Ops Competition (aka, Robo-Ops) at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Rock Yard last week, from June 3 – 5, 2014. Robo-Ops is one of several RASC-AL (Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage) collegiate design competitions sponsored by NASA and administered by the National Institute of Aerospace that exercise innovation in support of NASA’s new approach for human space exploration.


Coupled closely with NASA’s next steps in extending human presence beyond ISS and low Earth Orbit, this year’s Robo-Ops competition asked university level teams to demonstrate innovative concepts for tele-operated rovers as they would be used either on the moon or the surface of Mars.  In this exciting competition, the teams design, build, and the conduct field tests of planetary rover prototypes at the Rock Yard. By incorporating a tele-operations component, complete with communications delays, in the competition, teams replicate how robots and astronauts will work together in the deep space exploration missions.


“In the 2020’s, NASA will have a transportation system based on the SLS and Orion that can ferry crews to orbits beyond the moon,” says Pat Troutman, Human Exploration Strategic Analysis Lead at NASA Langley Research Center. “This deep space proving ground will allow us to develop and demonstrate capabilities required for future Mars missions.”


2014 competing teams included:

  • West Virginia University – 1st place
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology – 2nd place
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University – 3rd place
  • University of Buffalo
  • University of California-Berkeley
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Utah
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Once selected to compete in December 2013, each team was provided with a small development stipend to build a rover capable of tackling the Rock Yard. Rovers had to negotiate specified up-and-down-slopes, traverse sand and gravel pits, drive over large rocks and pick up and stow specific rock samples.


A total of 169 students and their faculty advisors participated this year. 34 of the students traveled with their rovers to JSC, while other participating team members remained back at their respective home university’s mission control center to operate the rovers remotely, based solely on the real-time video feeds being transmitted by the rovers’ on-board cameras. Each team’s camera feeds were streamed live on the Robo-Ops website during their competition run, allowing the public to view the competition.


Claiming the first place prize of $6,000 in the 2014 Robo-Ops Competition, West Virginia University broke the existing record for the most points scored on the Rock Yard. Newcomers Massachusetts Institute of Technology earned 2nd place (and $4,000) with an exciting performance on the Rock Yard. Another new team, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, secured third place and its $2,000 cash award.
For more information about RASC-AL, visit:


For more information about RASC-AL Exploration Robo-Ops, visit:
For more information about the National Institute of Aerospace, visit:



100 Exploration Way
Hampton, VA 23666