More than thirty students from five countries arrived at ESA’s technical heart in the Netherlands, ESTEC, last week to take part in the finals of the IRISS Space Robotics competition on 17-18 December 2015, the culmination of a year of hard work designing and building their robots.
Eight teams of finalists battled through multiple rounds with their robots on a mock-up of the International Space Station. Their mission: to unload as much cargo from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) as possible in a given time. Students commanded their robots remotely from the ‘Ground Control Centre’ next door. As well as points from the games, the teams earned ‘multipliers’ during the preparation phase which they used strategically to improve their scores during the games.
The challenge required students to learn a variety of skills from many areas, reflecting the process ESA engineers follow when developing a spacecraft. The teams had to work together and divide tasks to tackle robot design, communications and control as well as making sure all the paperwork was in order for the competition and delivering progress reports and videos to ESA on time.
The category winners were:
iriss 1 (11-13 years old): I-Robot from Romania
iriss 2 (14-16 years old): Johanneum robotics from Germany
iriss 3 (17-19 years old): Team Specialisterne from Denmark
The category winners battled it out in a grand final with the I-Robot team from Romania taking the title of overall winner.
The standard of the competition was high with all teams presenting and controlling fantastic robotic creations. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen was particularly impressed with the variety and ingenuity of the different mechanisms and solutions used by teams to grab, move and place the cargo.
ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen is the ambassador of the IRISS Space Robotics educational project and was present for the full event at ESTEC, acting as a judge during the competition games together with two further judges from the Robotics and Education teams at ESA. Students also received inspiring presentations about Andreas’ mission to the ISS earlier in the year and state-of-the-art robotics projects at ESA. The students’ experience was also enhanced by a tour of the ESTEC High Bay and a virtual tour of the ISS.