Global forum > News > Historical Overview – VMR, Remy ESERO I

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3/2/2018 9:48:41 AM

Development of a project called ReMY - Remote Mars Yard, funded under the GameINN
competition organized by the National Center for Research and Development, began in
February 2017. At that time, ABM Space officially proceeded to conduct the objectives of
project application.

However, ReMY did not begin in 2017.

The first ideas about building a partly virtual, partly real system were created, more or less, at
the beginning of this decade - when the Curiosity rover made its cosmic journey to Mars.
Originally named "Virtual Mars Rover", it was to be built in the basement of the headquarters
of (back then) ABM Space Education. The user, using a special interface launched from the
level of the browser, controlled the rover running on the Martian mockup and used various
research tools on the robot's deck to analyze objects and areas of interest ... sounds familiar?

"Resources are divided between three levels. Each level indicates the player's progress in the
game. The player begins at level I and has to gain specific experience, extract a certain amount
of samples from level I. This will allow the player to go to level II and then to level III. "- VMR
It was already under the name of "Remote Mars Yard", that the idea tried to get funding by
Kickstarter, but did not reach the goal in the set time. ReMY remained only in the sphere of
ideas and concepts ...

It was not until 2015, when work was in a full swing. ABM Space Education in cooperation
with the Copernicus Science Center (where the Polish branch of the European Space Education
Office ESERO is based) has planned to organize three editions of the school competition called
Remote Mars Yard. They were to take place in 2016 and 2017.

The second half of 2015 was marked by preparations for the first edition of the competition.
The completed team struggled with various problems, mainly technological ones - these were
new things for most of them. The construction of the rover, programing it in a specific way,
connecting it with the interface, designing the interface for browsers, developing a stable
positioning system - these were the issues thanks to which the team gained a lot of experience.
Working on the ReMy in the evenings, at the weekends - it was not surprising anymore.

In 2016, the recruitment of teams for the first edition of the Remote Mars Yard competition
began. What was the competition about? Groups of students from various schools from all over
Poland, using a special interface, activated from the level of the browser, operated the rover
running on the Martian mock-up and used various research tools which the robot was equipped
with to analyze the objects and areas of their interest ... :)

On March 19, 2016, the Copernicus Science Centre hosted workshops for teachers / tutors of
groups that were qualified for the competition. From among many applications, 25 groups were
selected to operate the rover on the surface of "Mars". During the workshop the principles of
robot operation, interface and control were explained; an extensive manual of the ReMY
System has also been written - with the registration and logging process included. Equipped
with such knowledge, the tutor explained to his students how the competition looks like. Each
of the teams got access to a virtual simulator - it was a stand-alone application, where the
interface from the browser version was duplicated and the rover control system was copied.
The idea was to get the navigators (or students operating the rover) used to the mechanics and
rules governing the issuing and processing of commands.

In the meantime, the teams, on the basis of the obtained crater maps (mock-ups), were
developing their route - the Martian mission. Worded step-by-step Flight Plans (virtually to the
minute) were sent to the e-mail address related to the competition.

After the preparation period, there was time for the finals. i.e., drive with the use of a real rover.
It soon turned out how simplified is the purely virtual environment. ABM Space Education
gave up the idea of advanced physical engines, as the main purpose of the simulator was to
acquaint the users with the interface. For this reason, the real rover behaved completely
differently to the one that was in the simulator.

The teams could watch the progress in operating the robot in several ways. Firstly, two cameras
were installed on the rover – navigation, looking forward and scientific, directed downwards –
and additionally, next to the lander (which, fictionally, the vehicle flew in) was another, having
an image of the larger part of the mock-up. Secondly, the positioning system used in ReMY
allowed for the mapping of the rover in a 3D environment, which is a faithful copy of the actual
Martian mock-up. In addition, there was a map of the area of struggle on which the rover was
marked.

The competition involved finding as many objects as possible in a given time – comparable to
the Flight Plan previously provided. For each piece of the meteorite, for each trace of ice, for
each aeolian form the team received points. The correct construction of the mission and taking
photos and sending them by e-mail also resulted in earning points.
The teams were divided according to age categories: Junior High School and Secondary School
/ Technical School. The winners were respectively: Marsjańscy Eksploratorzy (87/100) from
Rzezawa and Annihilation from Łódź (86/100).
During the final rides, each of the teams was under the care of Moderators - that is, people from
ABM Space Education. They monitored the progress of groups on an ongoing basis and helped
in case of serious problems. If, for example, a rover blocked in some place, then there was no
intervention - just like no man (for now ...) will pull a buried rover out of a hole on Mars.
However, if - for example - the group had problems getting the image from the rover's cameras,
then the Moderators suggested actions that would help in solving this problem.
The final rides lasted from May 24 to June 15, 2016. The Final Gala, to which all the
participating teams were invited, took place on 17 June at the Copernicus Science Centre. Each
participant received a commemorative diploma from ESERO and ABM Space Education, and
the winners a bag full of gifts.

Together with the summer semester of 2015/2016, the first edition of the Remote Mars Yard
competition was completed. The ReMY team, with the experience gained at the competition,
began the process of improving the game, rover, positioning ... the second edition, apart from
the general outlines, basically no longer resembled the first one.

But this is the story for another time … :)

Maciej, ReMY Gameplay Developer