Adams State University and

NASA's Colorado Space Grant Consortium Presents:

The Robotics Challenge

The 2016 Robotics Challenge was held on Saturday April 16th, 2016 at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 2016 Robotics Challenge this year.  We saw amazing designs.

Robotics Challenge Agenda for Saturday April 15-16, 2016


We had some amazing robots this year including some of the most advanced over the event's 10 year history.  Since some of the teams were not able to travel to the Dunes this year I'm showcasing some of the great videos of their designs and sharing two video summaries of the Saturday at the Dunes.

Pictures from the Event

Pictures from Charlie Hakes

Pictures from Brian Sanders


Robot Profile Videos

Trinidad State Junior College - Introduction and Demonstration.  They also provided some great additional footage: Down the Ravine, Heading to the Beacon, Sand Driving

Pueblo Community College - Space Rat Holligan Jumpers

University of Northern Colorado - "Kevin"

Great Sand Dunes:


Videos from the Dunes
Video of the Dunes by Bernadette Garcia Galvez

Video of the Dunes by Charlie Hakes

During the Colorado Space Grant Symposium Undergraduate Space Research Symposium, we recognized four amazing robots.  This year we highlighted four unique designs that challenged mobility, navigation and even optically identified a target specimen and returned it to the student team.  All these robots are demonstrating the technology we will need as we travel to Mars and further explore our solar system.


Recognition Ceremony

Part 1 - Robotics Challenge Introduction

Part 2 - Continued Team Recognition

The Robotics Challenge Summary Slides (PDF)

 I hope you enjoyed the Robotics Challenge this year.  We are starting to plan next year's event and hope your time might join us.







Who can participate? The event on April 16th, 2016 is open to the public. Enter a robot or come watch!  Previous years saw teams from many of Colorado's colleges and universities challenged to courses to simulate the challenges that the Mars rovers experience every day.  High school teams and folks with general interests in robotics can also get involved.

Get Registered.   Register your team, or at least your team captain now! No cost to get involved.  Teams provide their own hardware and travel to the event.  Contact Brian at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.

Getting Started

Robotics Challenge Overview Presentation (updated Jan 6th, 2016)

Space Grant Workshop

Workshops prior to the event are offered to active Colorado Space Grant Consortium Students and details can be found at the Workshop links below.  Space Grant doesn't provide any funding for hardware or travel to the event or workshops.  However if you are a student involved in the Colorado Space Grant program at your college or university in Colorado, please talk to your Affiliate Director for possible funding opportunities.

Robotics and BalloonSat Workshop


Robotics Challenge Resources

Robotics Challenge Technical Resources to help brainstorm ideas and build your design

Robotics Beacon Information

Robotics Challenge Rules

Robotics Challenge Hotel (Updated for 2016! Make your reservations now!)

Robotics Challenge Technical Resources and Beacon Information



Great Sand Dunes National Park - Just past the main Visitors Center

Public Welcome 8am Start and Concluding about 11:30am


Why a Robotics Challenge?

Adams State University in Alamosa and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium are excited to announce the sixth annual robotic event near Alamosa. We intend to simulate an autonomous robot mission on Mars. This event is open to all colleges/universities in Colorado and the general public. 


This Challenge is designed to further robot development and challenge teams to learn about electronics, programming and operating in a difficult environment.  Our site, at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, is an excellent location for a simulated Mars mission. The terrain near the Sand Dunes creates an environment similar to what can be found on Mars. Participants should design their robots to function is a range of temperatures and natural terrain. There will be wind, ground vegetation, and other not-found-in-the-lab challenges which can render many sensors and movement systems non-functional. Sand has a way of rendering moving parts inoperative. The challenge the terrain presents are not trivial; it is the perfect outdoors laboratory where different ideas can be tested and evaluated.  The History of Robots at the Great Sand DunesThirty years ago the two Viking Landers touched down on Mars. Their cameras were returning to Earth images that have inspired a generation of young people. These cameras were developed in Colorado and tested at the Great Sand Dunes Monument near Alamosa:“With the Red Rock tests completed sooner than we had anticipated, the Martin Marietta engineer in charge suggested that maybe we could venture farther afield. I was dumbfounded. Although this was precisely what we had been requesting, we had always been rebuffed with a stern lecture regarding the precious character of the cameras, and the impossibility of operating them without racks of nonportable support equipment. More than once we had peevishly asked how it could be that we were building a camera that could sustain the shock of a landing on Mars, but could not survive a short excursion on Earth.“The offer was quickly accepted. We loaded all the camera equipment and support gear in a rental truck-unaccountably, Martin Marietta seemed to have no vehicles available other than rockets-and started off for Great Sand Dunes National Monument.“To this day I have not figured out how we managed to drive blithely away with thousands of dollars worth of irreplaceable equipment. In a project where even the most trivial events were anticipated by extensive paperwork, the rules seemed to have been suspended temporarily. Several engineers accompanied the camera in the truck. The remainder of the group traveled in private cars, all of us arranging to meet the following day at Great Sand Dunes.”(From Visit this site for some interesting images of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.)The association of Mars with the Great Sand Dunes continues. As recently as fall 2006, scientists were studying the movement of the dunes in an attempt to understand atmospheric conditions of that distant planet. We wish to build on the “Mars Tradition”, believing that the results of our efforts will not only improve our understanding of autonomous robots but will encourage others to study key science and technology disciplines needed by our country. We want our event to encourage not only the students in Colorado but those across the nation.The Colorado Robot Challenge will be staged on terrain similar to the first images returned by the Viking Landers. It will not be “friendly” terrain. The “level course”, one of several courses for this event, will be slewed with rocks and sand of different degrees of consolation. The robots will need to pick a path though this maze. It may well be that no robot will successful complete the courses.Hence, the Robot Challenge is a learning experience. There will not be a first place. There are no awards other than the satisfaction of tackling a difficult, unsolved problem. Our goal is for the various teams to develop a robot which is capable of moving over difficult terrain. We will share what we learn – both successes and failures.Our open cooperation is essential to the development of better robots. Our designs may never make it into space. Yet, on Earth there are numerous situations where our designs will succeed. Robots are needed to clear mine fields in developing countries. Robots are needed to search for survivors in buildings devastated by natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes. Robots can assist in mine rescues. Autonomous robots are needed in situations where the environment is too dangerous for people. Our Mars simulation may lead to new ideas that can address that need.The Colorado Robot Challenge will be an event where students can learn and gain valuable experience in merging sciences and technologies. And it will be fun!