University Rover Challenge

The Mars Society is an international organization promoting the exploration and eventual settlement of Mars through public awareness, government funding, and private sector investment. The Mars Society annually hosts the University Rover Challenge at the Mars Desert Research Center in southern Utah.

The URC pushes students beyond the theoretical knowledge they gain in classes, encouraging innovation and creation of new rovers to aid in future explorations of our neighboring planet. Each team must design, build, and operate a rover to compete against other contending universities in a variety of field tasks that actual Mars rovers face on missions to the Red Planet.

The winning team will present its rover at the International Mars Society Convention and earn transportation, lodging and admission for five team members to the annual International Mars Society Convention held in the summer.

Check out the 2015 Team Progress Video.

Lead Spotlight: Scott

Scott Holmdahl is a senior in mechanical engineering, serving as the Drive Systems sub-team lead this year. He is pursuing full-time employment working on rover-related projects after graduating this May. Outside of the project team, he enjoys rooting for Tottenham and various Seattle sports teams and is trying to learn electronic music production.

Scott has been a member of the Drive Systems sub-team for four years, working on the Electronics Core for two years, then the Suspension for a year, and now serves as sub-team lead.

Meet the Members

Lead Spotlight: Emma

Emma Carpenter is a senior mechanical engineering student and head of the CMR Tasks subteam. They are interested in building rovers and other technologies for space exploration. Last summer, they interned at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they will return full time after graduating this coming May. They are also a member of the Cornell Junior Anime Society, and outside of school, they like to draw, sew, read comic books, and care for their three loving hermit crabs.

Emma joined the Mars Rover Tasks team as a sophmore in 2014, where they designed the rover's end effector. During their second year, they designed the rover's base joint. Now, Emma leads the Tasks subteam. They feel their time on CMR was an indespensible part of their education at Cornell, providing them with the opportunity to develop and hone their skills in computer aided design, stress analysis, and machining. They look forward to a long career of building rovers and daring mighty things.

Meet the Members

Lead Spotlight: Hunter

Hunter is a senior majoring in Computer Science and is the current Controls Software subteam lead. He was on the founding board of his high school's FIRST FTC Robotics team and has been programming for fun for just over seven years. Hunter also formerly performed Computer Science research in Programming Languages and Logic. Hunter has previously interned at Facebook and will be returning there next summer. He also swears he has hobbies but just doesn't have time for them anymore.

Meet the Members


Cornell hosts a number of guest speakers throughout the year. A few of our members were able to hear from and meet NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Deputy Administrator Dava Newman today! What an educational and rewarding experience for our CMR members. If you're looking for another rover to send to Mars, perhaps Chronos will be free of CMR duties pretty soon.

Lead Spotlight: John

John is a senior majoring in Electrical & Computer Engineering with a minor in business who serves as the team lead of Cornell Mars Rover. John is interested in the fusion of entrepreneurship and engineering, with a focus on startup development. He was selected as a Kessler Fellow his junior year which led to a summer internship with a stealth robotics startup, Starsky Robotics. Outside of Mars Rover, John is an Engineering Ambassador who gives tours of the engineering quad to prospective students and has previously broadcast Cornell sports for the Big Red Sports Network. John is a pun enthusiast, even being labeled "punstoppable" by some, who enjoys astronomy, robotics, sports (specifically the Mets, Jets, Nets, and Devils), tennis, and playing the piano.

Meet the Members

Lead Spotlight: Nicole

Nicole Polemeni-Hegarty is a senior Mechanical Engineer and serves as the Engineering Manager on Cornell Mars Rover. She is interested in aerospace, defense and space exploration. On campus, Nicole is the Vice President of the Cornell Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She is also an involved member of the sorority, Delta Delta Delta, for which she has served as the House Manager and Academic Development Chair. Last summer Nicole interned at Lockheed Martin’s Laser and Sensor Systems on hardware integration for one of their laser weapons. This upcoming summer she will be working for SpaceX as a Vehicle Engineering Intern for the Falcon 9. Next year she will stay at Cornell to complete her Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. In her free time, Nicole enjoys entertaining, learning Mandarin and playing the piano.

Meet the Members

Team Progress 2015

Through the development of our rovers, we are able to take on real-world Mars challenges without ever leaving Earth! We take pride in the functionality, style, and performance of the hardware and software that give life to our rovers. Our excellence in research and design, all through student hands, has not only contributed to our experience, but it has raised the standards for innovative design.