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Mountaineer Robotics Team Secures Second Place at 2024 International Mars Rover Competition

Photo of group of Mountaineer Team students in the Utah desert, looking at computers with rover in background

Team Mountaineer competed in four missions during the 2024 University Rover Challenge at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah: the Science Mission, Delivery Mission, Equipment Servicing Mission and Autonomous Navigation Mission, earning second place among 38 teams from 10 different countries (Photo supplied). 

Reigning champions Team Mountaineers represented the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and West Virginia University this past weekend, placing second in the 2024 University Rover Challenge (URC) finals held at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.

Story by Kaley LaQuea
Photos supplied


The competition started with 102 teams, culled to 38 finalists from 10 countries around the world. Eleven Mountaineers participated in this year’s final competition, representing a range of engineering disciplines including computer science, electrical, mechanical and aerospace.

“Following our victory in the 2023 URC competition, Team Mountaineers open-sourced the robot designs to assist new teams worldwide in entering the competition. This year, over 70 students on Team Mountaineers developed a new rover design, with innovations ranging from the drive train to the science payload,” mechanical, materials and aerospace professor and faculty advisor Yu Gu explained. “The students who traveled to Utah for the final competition are leaders in their respective areas, showcasing remarkable technical skills, teamwork and sound judgment under extreme pressure. The team proudly represented WVU, continuing a decade-long stride of Team Mountaineers as an international leader in robotic competitions.”

Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering department students Robert Cook, Connor Mann, and Alan Hongpaisan worked alongside Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering students Nick Beaton, Owen Darden, Jalen Beeman, Nathan Adkins, Michael McCarron, Emily O’Haire, led by the team’s Chief Technology Officer Riley McAllister and CEO Kendra Gillo.

“The team did an amazing job this year,” Gillo said. “After our success in the competition last year, we decided against playing it safe and focused on creating an innovative robot. We faced many new challenges due to the ambition of the design, but everyone put in the long hours necessary to troubleshoot and refine. The final result was a unique robot that was unlike any of our competitors.”

Teams vied for victory during four competition missions. Team Mountaineer earned the second highest score during the Science Mission, in which finalists used rovers to investigate the geology and astrobiology history of the site and collect both surface and 10-centimeter subsurface soil samples. Team Mountaineers analyzed geological elements like minerals and water flow, taking spectrometry and other measurements of the collected samples to determine whether or not the site could support microbial life.

The team also placed fourth in the Delivery Mission, where rovers simulate a timed astronaut assistance mission by completing tasks like object delivery over increasingly challenging terrain. WVU earned the third highest score in the Equipment Servicing Mission, which required the rover to deliver a science sample to an equipment station. Teams received additional points for completing more technical subtasks like opening a drawer, tightening screws and inserting a USB. 

WVU earned the second-highest number of points for the Autonomous Navigation Mission as well, where the team’s rover was required to make the autonomous trek across a certain distance of terrain while navigating around different objects.

Prospective students can learn more about the growing robotics program here at WVU by visiting and

For WVU students interested in joining the URC team, please visit: The team meets weekly during the academic year and is actively recruiting engineering students as well as students in other disciplines such as geology, biology, business, art, physics, mathematics and more.



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135