Team Ryu triumphs at International Space University’s robotics competition

USI SSP Team Ryu

Team Ryu took home first place at the International Space University’s (ISU) space-themed robotics competition held at Rice University June 21 with a score more than double of its competitors.

SSP Team Ryu
Team Ryu won first place at the ISU robotics competition. Top row: Damian Pietrusiak, Francesca Corella, Maelle Mathieu, Aaron Thornton. Bottom row: Isabella McCulloch and  Hinato Tanako. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University. 

“Everyone had their strengths, and it was a good combination,” said Aaron Thornton, a Ryu team member from Australia. “I have a mathematics background, so I did the coding.”

The event, part of ISU’s Space Studies Program (SSP), featured six teams of six members each. The teams programmed mini-space rovers made with Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits, designing them to navigate obstacles and collect toy gemstones. They were scored over three, seven-minute rounds. SSP participants cheered on the competitors mentored by Professor Kazuya Yoshida of the Space Robotics Laboratory at Tohoku University in Japan, who also served as a judge.

This year, 155 space industry professionals from more than 35 countries are attending the SSP, an eight-week program running through Aug. 3. The global nature of the competition was evident. Team Ryu, named after the Japanese word for dragon, included Damian Pietrusiak from Poland, Francesca Corella from Italy, Maelle Mathieu from France, Thornton and Isabella McCulloch from Australia and Hinato Tanako from Japan.

ISU robotics event
The teams programmed mini-space rovers made with Lego Mindstorms EV3 kits, designing them to navigate obstacles and collect toy gemstones. Photo by Gustavo Raskosky/Rice University. 

Founded in 1998, the ISU’s annual robotics competition is important in helping SSP members understand the fundamentals of robotics and their applications in space.

“It has been intense but exciting,” Spain’s Ismael Tito Freire, a member of the third-place Infinity Explorers Team, said of the program. “We’re being exposed to many topics on space operation and engineering, and we are having fun with the robotics competition.”

Freire’s Infinity Explorers teammate Laura Gonzalez Llamazares echoed his remarks. “The International Space University is a well-known institution in the space sector,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to meet people internationally from different backgrounds and disciplines, and also learn a lot about space.”

This year marks the second time Rice has hosted the SSP, an intensive educational and training program held annually in different cities worldwide. Rice first hosted the event in 1997.

The SSP offers a comprehensive curriculum to expand participants’ knowledge of the space sector. Attendees explore both technical and nontechnical aspects of the industry in an international, intercultural and interdisciplinary environment through courses, hands-on learning modules and networking opportunities.

Founded in 1987, ISU is based in Strasbourg, France, and is the world’s only university devoted entirely to space education. ISU has hubs in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific region, partnerships with leading space organizations and a global alumni network that includes astronauts, entrepreneurs and industry leaders.