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6/1/2009
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York U Wins Mars Rover Challenge

The Canadian university is tops in a contest to design next-generation vehicle.

Toronto's York University has won the annual University Rover Challenge, an international competition that prompts students to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers.

The contest, held by The Mars Society at the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah, took place last week.

York obtained a perfect score in the emergency navigation challenge, Saturday. They had 35 minutes to deliver a container to a distressed astronaut in the field. They used last known GPS coordinates and they were the only team to reach the astronaut. They did it with 12 minutes and 12 seconds remaining, earning them the full time bonus for the task. They finished second in a site survey challenge.

"The real key to victory for them was their overall system reliability -- they seemed to be the only team that avoided having any major breakdowns during the four tasks," Kevin Sloan, Director of the University Rover Challenge, said in a statement.

Brigham Young University placed second in the competition. They struggled with the site survey and emergency navigation tasks, but did well enough in a construction task to place second. The University of Nevada, Reno, placed third.

"Although many of the tasks for 2009 were similar to those in 2008, the requirements and task courses were much more difficult this year," Alex Kirk, a URC judge, said in a statement. "Despite how hard we made things for these teams, they found ways to accomplish amazing feats. All of the judges were extremely impressed at what these students have done. Now the hard job for the judges is to devise even harder tasks for the 2010 URC."

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