European Research Council Robotics Competition 2019

Help Manchester Students for the Exploration and Development of Space compete in the ERC 2019!

  • £2,825

    pledged of £15,100

    • 17


    • 22

      days left

This project will only receive pledges if at least £8,800 is pledged by Sun 11 Aug 2019

We’re raising £12,000 to build a 50kg rover that we’ll compete with at the European Rover Challenge 2019 (ERC) which will put Manchester on the world stage of robotics and enable us to teach and inspire the next generation of engineers within our community.

Our team

Our team is made up of 15 undergraduate and postgraduate students within The University of Manchester. We’re from various schools within the Faculty of Science and Engineering and we represent the project itself which is characterised by a high level of multidisciplinarity. Each of us has different and complementary skills and experiences which will aid the completion of this project.

The project is led by Matthew Liu – a third-year Physics student enthusiastic about robotics and space exploration. Matthew has been a valuable member of the MANSEDS Rovers since he joined the University and is very knowledgeable in the area of space robotics. He has been the sole organiser of various workshops and outreach events related to the Lunar and Mars Rovers.

MANSEDS Rovers is a part of MANSEDS (Manchester Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) student society. MANSEDS is one of the biggest and most active SEDS branches in the UK. The society has four divisions: rocketry, small satellites, high altitude balloon and the rover branch, and has over 120 members from various schools and faculties in The University of Manchester.

The project

What is the European Rover Challenge (ERC)?

ERC is a student level, international engineering competition that takes place in Poland every September, with teams from around the world and with countries ranging from Canada to India. The goal of the completion is to design and build a 50kg fully functional autonomous Martian Rover, giving valuable experiences for the individuals in the teams involved. There are multiple stages in the competition, each requires the submission of various documentation that leads to the final stage, the deployment of the rovers at the competition arena where 20 rovers fight for the first place.

The competition consists of four tasks: traverse task, maintenance task, collection task and science task.

The traverse task demonstrates the system’s autonomous traversal abilities, with an end goal of the rover being able to fully autonomously traverse unknown and potentially hostile terrain.

The maintenance task demonstrates the rover's ability and performance in operating electrical panels for the purposes of maintenance tasks needed in extra-terrestrial bases. The team has to use a manipulating device, in our case a robotic arm, to set switches to correct positions, measure electrical parameters, set other panel controls and observe device feedback.

The collection task demonstrates the rover’s ability to perform in a cache fetching scenario. The team has to reach locations marked on a map, search and pick up the caches and place them into a container on board in the required orientation, then deliver the container with caches to the final destination.

Finally, the science task involves obtaining samples of surface and subsurface layers of simulated Martian soil, each taken from different locations specified by the competition. Samples will be placed into prepared containers. Additional in-situ measurements and automatic documentation such as photographs of the sample collection site will also be required.

We are confident that with our passion and your help we can perform very well in the ERC Robotics Competition and put Manchester on the map in the world of robotics.

Why fund us?

European Rover Challenge has been dominated for several years by teams from other European nations, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, with the occasional Canadian team taking the lead. Those teams receive substantial funding from their respective universities and from their governments through grants. The School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering within the University has very generously funded us previously. Unfortunately, since this project includes students from across many different schools, we’re struggling to find funding from the University this time. The other source of funding for us is the University of Manchester Students’ Union, but we can only apply for funds through the FundIt scheme, which is not nearly enough to cover our expenses.

Additionally, while the UKSEDS (United Kingdom Students for the Exploration and Development of Space – an organisation under UK Space Agency that deals with students) does provide grants for the rover competitions, the maximum value of such is mere £250, which, as you can see above, is nowhere near our costs. 

Making the Mars Rover and competing in the European Rover Challenge is really important to us, because we believe in continuously learning and expanding our knowledge. We believe that space exploration is a relevant and fascinating subject, and we want to bring Manchester closer to space. This project will allow us to gain expertise and skills, which we can pass on to other students in the form of workshops, and we hope that the completed rover will be the crown jewel of MANSEDS and The University of Manchester in general. By funding the rover, you are not only funding our team – you are also enabling countless students to benefit from the knowledge and experience gained in this competition, as well as to the prestige of The University of Manchester on the international stage.

There are currently only two other teams from the UK which compete in the ERC: The Open University and University College London (UCL). UCL being at the financial centre of Britain would obviously bring certain advantages in terms of funding, however, that doesn’t mean that we can’t beat them in the European Rover Challenge!

Where will the money go?

If our minimum fundraising target then we’ll spend the funds on:

Electrical components – £4,200

  • Motors (wheel and robotic arm) and motor controllers – £1,200
  • Sensors (cameras, lidar, proximity, internal measurement units, encoders, etc.) – £300
  • Actuators and servos - £300 (partial)
  • Batteries – £500
  • Main processor – £350
  • Micro controllers - £300
  • Circuit board design and manufacture – £250
  • Circuit board components – £150
  • Communication systems (antenna, receiver and transmitter) - £300
  • Control centre electronics (screens, joysticks, buttons, etc.) – £300
  • Others (wires, connectors, miscellaneous components, etc.) - £250

Mechanical components – £2,000

  • Motor gearboxes (wheel and robotic arm) – £800
  • Raw material and manufacturing – £400
  • Gears and bearings – £300
  • Structural components (rods, connectors, screws, etc.) – £200
  • Other store bought components (springs, wheels, tires, clamps, etc.) – £300

Competition costs (for a team of 15) - £2,600

  • Accommodation – £1,500
  • Transportation from airport to the competition site - £500
  • Shipping rover to and from the competition (round-trip) – £600

If we hit our full target then we’ll use the additional money to build a better quality rover with more chance of winning the competition, and we’ll help the students competing cover their costs so that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds do not have to miss out on this amazing opportunity simply because they can’t afford the flight. The additional money would be allocated as below:

Electrical components – £2,200

  • Motors (wheel and robotic arm) and motor controllers – £1,300
  • Sensors (cameras, lidar, proximity, internal measurement units, encoders, etc.) – £700
  • Actuators and servos - £200

Mechanical components – £2,600

  • Motor gearboxes (wheel and robotic arm) – £1,200
  • Raw material and manufacturing – £600
  • Gears and bearings – £500
  • Structural components (rods, connectors, screws, etc.) – £100
  • Other store bought components (springs, wheels, tires, clamps, etc.) – £200

Competition costs (for a team of 15) - £1,500

  • Flight tickets – £1,500

The vast majority of the funds will be spent on parts and equipment that we can use in the years to come, and in following years the only major costs would be parts for upgrades and competition related costs. 

Should we be lucky enough to raise more than our full target, all extra funds would be used to improve the rover design during the next year and to help us compete in ERC 2020.

We'll post updates every week during the crowdfunding campaign ti keep you up to speed and we'll let you know how we're getting on daily whilst we're in Poland competing


Hey, we have some fab rewards to thank everyone who donates, whatever the amount you might give. Check them out down the right side of this page. 

Find us here

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Help us succeed!

You don't need to give money to help us succeed! Please share this project with anyone you think would support us – on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, by email, telephone, in a chat over the fence or on your blog.

In fact, share it with everyone you know as we think it's a great idea, and the more people who know about it, the more likely we are to make this work out brilliantly.

And we know we said you don't need to give money to help us, but we'd love it if you did! Please sponsor us and help make this happen.

Choose reward

Pledge £1 or more

Select this reward if you just want to donate to the project without receiving a reward.

13 claimed

Pledge £10 or more

Pick this reward and you will receive a link to a secret Facebook group with project updates. Message Zuzanna through this site to be added into the group :)

3 claimed

Estimated delivery: 1 August 2019

Pledge £20 or more

You will receive an email with a picture of the rover and the team with thank you note.

1 claimed

Estimated delivery: 1 August 2019

Pledge £100 or more

Pick this reward if you want to take control of the rover for several minutes. This can be done with you either visiting us in Manchester or through a special app that will be provided to you. (You will be contacted by email after the fundraising ends to figure out a convenient time for you to experience this reward)

0 claimed

Estimated delivery: 1 August 2019

Pledge £200 or more

Donate £200 or more to receive a custom piece of rover artwork, made with rover's robotic arm (with the video of the process!). Postage is free within UK, and £10 for anywhere else

0 claimed

Estimated delivery: 1 September 2019

Pledge £500 or more

Design a sticker/have us design a sticker to your liking and we will put it on our rover during the competition in September. The sticker need not be offensive and be less than 6cmx6cm in size. Your design will need to be emailed to us by the end of August to be included. Message Zuzanna through this site for our email address. The design ought to be in any of the following file formats: pdf, jpg, eps or png. The team will be responsible for printing out the stickers.

0 claimed of 12

Estimated delivery: 1 September 2019

Pledge £1000 or more

Donate over £1000 to get an hour-long private session with the key team members at Manchester at a mutually convenient time, where we explain how the rover works in detail with practical demonstration. If you are unable to meet with us in Manchester then we can arrange an hour-long video call with you at your convenience. We'll email you when the fundraising ends to arrange this. Please note that travel/accommodation costs will not be covered.

0 claimed

Estimated delivery: 1 August 2019

Pledge £6000 or more

Top Dog. If you donate this much, you get to name the rover (Within reason, non-offensive, etc) - message Zuzanna with your chosen name via this site. The name will be displayed on the Rover and submitted with the official documentation. The name has to be chosen by the end of the crowdfunding campaign.

0 claimed of 1

Estimated delivery: 1 August 2019