WSU Everett Mars rover team

Monday, June 06, 2016
WSU Everett Mars rover team

EVERETT, Wash. – The rust-colored badlands of the Mars Desert Research Station became a proving ground for aspiring engineers from around the world through the weekend. And at the end, it was students from the Washington State University North Puget Sound at Everett Mars rover team standing on the second-place podium, surrounded on either side by first- and third-place finishers from Poland.

The team of nearly 20 mechanical engineers from the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, several of them recent graduates who have held off job searches in order to compete in the June 2-4 challenge, spent more than a year designing and building a Mars rover of their own. That rover is meant to be able to work alongside human explorers on the surface of the Red Planet; tough enough to move over rough terrain, agile enough to pick up and move a variety of tools and smart enough to test soil for elements that might help sustain life.

Blaine Liukko, a 24-year-old mechanical engineering major from Lynnwood, has been president of the WSU Everett Engineering Club for the 2015-2016 academic year.

“I have never had a trophy mean so much to me,” Liukko said. “We started with a vision my junior year, and throughout my educational career, I have put in well over 1,000 hours of blood, sweat and tears to make that vision become a reality. My team came together, each person taking on different responsibilities, to build the best machine we could. Hard work does pay off and the emotions that came along with this accomplishment are second to none.”

The WSU Everett team was one of 30 semifinalists representing seven countries, including the United States, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, India, Poland and South Korea.

The only other American teams to place in the University Rover Challenge (URC) finals were Cornell University, eighth place, Brigham Young University, 11th place, and the University of Michigan, 12th place.

Phil Engel, who will return to WSU as a senior next year, was the only student in the competition to earn an individual science award.