| 15 September 2023

University team places second in rover challenge

Engineers Australia member Parmis Hassani has been appointed CEO of the Monash nova rover team and recently had the opportunity, alongside 27 other members, to compete in the University Rover Challenge hosted by the Mars Society at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, USA.

Out of the 37 teams they successfully secured second place despite the competitive challenge. She tells us more about her travels to the US to take part in the exciting event.

Can you tell us more about the Monash nova rover team? 

Monash nova rover (MNR) is a multidisciplinary team of 100 undergraduate students from all different engineering and non-engineering backgrounds, who are dedicated to designing and building Mars and lunar rovers. The team is comprised of six different sub teams, each dedicated to specific aspects of the rover's development and subsystems. These sub teams include the chassis team, the science team, the electrical team, the software and autonomous team and the business and media team. 

The team competes annually in two significant rover competitions. The first being a domestic competition held in South Australia known as the Australian Rover Challenge. Then we have the University Rover Challenge in Utah, which the team is delighted to have placed second. 

We are currently running the Pink Rover Campaign, which aims to foster greater diversity in the field of engineering and challenge stereotypes associated with women in STEM. By making our pink rover, nova rover aims to spark deeper conversations about women in STEM to bring visibility to these barriers and biases and to change perceptions of the ‘ideal’ engineer. 

What was it like being a part of the university rover challenge?  

Participating in the challenge was a mix of excitement and stress, and the Utah desert presented a unique set of challenges, including harsh sun and sudden winds. There were late nights troubleshooting code and system issues, and we also faced the challenge of disassembling and reassembling our rover upon arrival, which added to the pressure. Despite this our team performed admirably narrowly missing out on first place.   

As competition day neared, our rover and operators were exceptionally well prepared. As an arm competition operator, I focused on improving speed and precision for my task (equipment servicing), which like the other three tasks ran over 30 minutes. 

The competition itself was an incredible experience, offering the chance to connect with rover teams from around the world who were incredibly supportive of one another. Teams readily helped when needed, exemplifying a strong sense of camaraderie. Right before our first task one of our radio masts fell and broke due to a sudden wind meaning we had no way to communicate with our rover on field during tasks. But other teams stepped up and lent us theirs. Without the help we would not have been able to perform as well as we did.  

You have recently been appointed CEO of the team, what has been your experience and how will this help you in the future?  

Being the CEO has been such an amazing experience for me. While it has come with its fair share of stress, it has provided me with invaluable insights into project management, leadership and professional communication. 

Although I'm only seven weeks into my 12-month term, I've already encountered and conquered various challenges. I've honed my skills in budget allocation and focused on fostering inclusivity within the team, ensuring every member's perspective is considered. 

This role has equipped me with the ability to engage effectively with sponsors and major companies. I've learned how to build and maintain professional relationships while aligning the team's goals with industry interests. Managing a diverse team with a wide range of ideas and opinions has been a valuable learning experience, teaching me the art of delegation and time management to keep us on track to success. 

This multifaceted experience will undoubtedly shape my future career as an engineer by providing me with the leadership, project management and interpersonal skills necessary to excel in a dynamic and collaborative professional environment.