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Help Build a Mars Rover 2020

Raised toward our $6,000 Goal
45 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on December 05, at 11:59 PM EST
Project Owners

Help Build a Mars Rover 2020

About the Team

Cornell Mars Rover (CMR) is a premier student-run engineering team comprised of over 45 members from across Cornell's undergraduate colleges. Each year, CMR designs an innovative rover to compete in the international University Rover Challenge, in which the team tackles challenges such as autonomous navigation, on-site science experimentation, and extreme terrain traversal. Since its inception in 2010, CMR has consistently placed well, earning 6th in the world at the 2019 competition. Students work collaboratively to design, build, and test the rover, exploring cutting edge technologies such as machine learning, wireless communications, CNC, and 3D printing. We need your help to bring our designs to life!

The Subteams


The Arm Subteam builds the rover's 6 axis robotic manipulator, which is the rover's primary means to interact with its environment. All six of the joints are powered by high power brushless DC motors and custom designed and manufacturing cycloidal gearboxes with minimal backlash to enable computer control of the arm using Inverse Kinematics. One of the focuses this year is making the arm as simple to manufacture as possible to enable earlier integration and testing of the arm. This will give us time to fully troubleshoot the arm and its associated electrical and software components to a much larger degree than any past years, allowing us to greatly improve our performance in the Equipment Servicing and ERDM tasks.


The AstroTech Subteam is responsible for an onboard soil delivery and analysis system which detects for signs of life. The team is divided into 3 subsystems: collection, mixing, and dispensing/analyzing. The collection team will replace the arm end effector with a scoop and implement the rover's inverse kinematics functions to precisely scoop and deliver the soil from the ground to the mixing chamber. Then, the mixing team will agitate the water and dirt solution in the mixing chamber with a slider crank mechanism. Finally, the dispensing/analyzing team will manufacture a peristaltic pump to transport the soil and water mixture into test tubes filled with chemical tests. A camera in a light controlled environment will take photos of the test tubes to send to the science team at the base station to look for color changes that indicate signs of life.


The Business Subteam is responsible for all other aspects that are needed to build a successful rover. This includes team finances, web design, graphic design, social media, video editing, and both public and sponsor outreach. This year, we are working with industry mentors to provide valuable feedback on subteam designs.


The Drives Subteam is responsible for designing and manufacturing the wheels, suspension, and frame such that the rover can traverse the rough competition terrain. Held in Utah, our Rover must navigate rocks, drops, and steep slopes up to 45 degrees. To do this, we are adapting a 6-wheel rocker-bogie suspension design, and designing flexible 3D printed drive wheels to reduce mass and absorb loadings. In the Winter and Spring, we will manufacture our components in-house, and need your help to turn our designs into reality!


The Software Subteam handles rover controls, path planning, user interfaces, and computer vision. Our projects this year include better controlling and maintaining the rover through graphical user interfaces, augmenting autonomous path planning using LIDAR and an enhanced computer vision system to guide our algorithms and streamlining the overall autonomy pipeline. Our focus for URC 2021 is to improve autonomous performance through these improved object detection and obstacle avoidance strategies as well as be able to better monitor the rover through other tasks.


The Electrical Subteam develops the hardware responsible for running all systems on the rover. Our primary goal is to design flexible and robust hardware that can be adapted to changing mechanical designs while still supporting the software subteam’s requirements. Our system handles low level control of motors and sensors via PIC32 microcontrollers which are present on all boards, as well as power distribution across all electrical components. This year, we are improving our custom brushless motor controllers to support the drives and arm subteams, and have also made upgrades our power distribution and battery management systems.


The Science Subteam’s focus is on the rover’s life detection capabilities. We design tests that allow us to determine the history of the surface that any particular soil or rock sample originated from. We create our test procedures so that the tests can be done autonomously, while also giving us accurate information regarding the presence of extant life or the past presence of extinct life within a particular sample.


The Testing Subteam was founded this year in order to focus on another major component of industry. We are designing tests and assembling test stands to ensure development of a successful rover in the spring semester. We are utilizing an array of sensors and arduino boards in order to measure strains and loads on the rover that we would normally estimate or only predict. This subteam provides mechanical engineers with a chance to work with electronics and coding, and provides controls engineers the chance to machine and design mechanical systems.



Choose a giving level


Houston, we have a donor!

A Donation of $5 - $49 will help our team purchase the base materials for the rover such as nuts, bolts, and aluminum.


Keep on Rovin' On

A donation of $50 - $99 will help us purchase the hardware and software used to build the rover. These include everything from the onboard GPS to carbon fiber tubing.


Blast Off

A donation of $100 - $499 will help us machine the rover. This year, we hope to augment our machining with industry-level gear manufacturing and innovative wire EDM techniques


Shoot for the Stars!

A donation of $500 - $999 will help us explore new brushless motors for the arm, an on-rover laboratory for science, and new computer vision hardware for autonomous navigation.


Out of this World!

A donation of $1000 - $1999 will help us fund our most ambitious projects, including a new harmonic drives system, a 100% carbon fiber arm, and GPU enhanced processing unit for AI navigation.


Space: The Final Frontier

A donation of over $2000 will ensure CMR's ability to succeed for years to come. This will help outfit our team with cutting edge technologies from the edges of material, computer, and biological sciences.