The University of Utah RoboUtes is one of eight teams selected nationally to compete in the 2013 RASC-AL Exploration Robo-Ops (Robo-Ops)  June 5-6, in a series of competitive field tests at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Rock Yard, Houston, Texas.

Along with their faculty advisor, associate professor Mark Minor in mechanical engineering, the RoboUtes land rover and team members: president Nick Traeden ME’14, treasurer Abhijit Boppana  ME’14 and vice-president Michael Bills ME’15, are heading to Houston.

RoboUtes mission control team members: electrical engineering captain Hunter Grayson EE’15, John Henrie ME’14, software captain Matthew Monahan, CS’16, and public relations Aditya Pande EE’15, will tele-operate the rover from right here at the University of Utah.

Mission control must negotiate a series of obstacles while accomplishing a variety of tasks. Sample tasks include: negotiating specified upslopes and downslopes, traversing sand and gravel pits, picking up specific rock samples and placing them on the rover for the remainder of the course, and driving over rocks of specified diameter.

Computer science freshman and RoboUtes software captain, Matthew Monahan says, “I joined Roboutes because I saw that it was an incredible way to get real world experience and apply what I was learning here at the U. I have learned at least as much during my one semester with the Roboutes as I have from any of my classes. Roboutes is open to people at any skill level with one of its primary goals being to help people see the potential of what they are learning in class by applying it.

To watch our competition stream live people should go to our page:” Robo-Ops is an engineering competition sponsored by NASA and organized by the National Institute of Aerospace.  In this exciting competition, undergraduate and graduate students create a multi-disciplinary team to build a planetary rover prototype and demonstrate its capabilities to perform a series of competitive tasks. Eight qualifying teams were selected to receive a $10,000 award to facilitate full participation in the Robo-Ops competition, including expenses for rover development, materials, testing equipment, hardware and software.  At the 2013 RASC-AL Robo-Ops Competition in Houston, the rovers will compete on a planetary analog environment under the supervision of NASA judges.

Each rover will be required to be controlled from the home university campus via a commercial broadband wireless uplink. The only information available to the rover controller to perform the required tasks will be information transmitted through on-board rover video camera(s) or other on-board sensors.  Cameras will allow the transmission of the competition back to the home universities as well as the general public. NASA seeks to engage the public in its missions and research. Supporting that goal, the Robo-Ops competition includes a unique public engagement component to the challenge.

Teams will be required to do an education and outreach activity for their rover that demonstrates participatory exploration approaches for future NASA missions. This includes Internet-based social media sites and other creative outreach approaches.  The RoboUtes EPO (Education and Public Outreach) video is posted on YouTube at as well as embedded below. Click on the RoboUtes web site to learn more about them and to keep up on the latest strategies and news items. Please be sure to like them on facebook as well as follow them on twitter  More information on the competition can be found at


The Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah is committed to providing students with broad-based, rigorous and progressive education.  By combining state-of-the-art facilities with renowned faculty, the department provides an education that gives students the necessary skills to become the next generation of innovators.

RoboUtes Executive Board 2013: L-R, Abhijit Boppana, vice president of finances, mechanical engineering junior; Matthew Monahan, software captain, computer science freshman; Michael Bilis, vice president, mechanical engineering sophomore; Nicklaus Traedent, president, mechanical engineering junior; and Aditya Pandey, historian and outreach head, electrical engineering sophomore.