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HAMMOND — Two rovers designed by Purdue University Northwest students placed among the top 10 in the annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama.

The April competition saw college teams from across the world compete in a Martian-style obstacle course testing the student-engineered rovers' ability to navigate cratered surfaces, sample rocks and plant flags — similar to NASA's twin Mars rovers, "Spirit" and "Opportunity."

"The rover team this year worked very well together as can be seen by their accomplishments," Harvey Abramowitz, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, said in a PNW news release.

The PNW rovers placed sixth and ninth among the field of more than 50 rovers at the Huntsville-based U.S. Space & Rocket Center, according to the news release. 

Both rovers were built by mechanical and electrical engineering students as senior design project. Fourteen students took part in PNW's Rover Team, overseen by Abramowitz and Don Gray, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at PNW.

The rovers were tasked with completing a half-mile course with 14 Martian-type obstacles and challenges, all to be completed within a seven-minute window mimicking the time oxygen would be available in an outer world excursion, according to the release.

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The two PNW rovers were among only 24 that earned points during the allotted time.

Competitors represented college teams from 20 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, as well as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, India, Mexico and Peru.

"Having both vehicles finish in the top nine, with chances for both to win it all, was awesome to see," Abramowitz said. "Teamwork can accomplish much, and these students should be congratulated for representing PNW so well."

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Education Reporter

Carley Lanich covers education in Lake County and throughout the Region. She comes to Northwest Indiana from Indianapolis and is an IU-Bloomington grad.