AWS JPL Open-Source Rover Challenge open to competitors

Sometimes, it is rocket science. Amazon Web Services Inc. is offering an opportunity to robotics and software developers to participate in space exploration while also showing off their hacking abilities. The AWS JPL Open-Source Rover Challenge is intended to help improve how rovers will operate on Mars.

“Space enthusiasts, robotics developers, and hobbyists can use their skills to improve how rovers on Mars operate to help unlock the secrets of the universe,” wrote Mark Francis, AWS product marketing lead, in a blog post.

In the virtual hackathon, announced last month, competitors will apply machine learning techniques to autonomous operation of the virtual Open-Source Rover, said AWS. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) designed the virtual rover, which is accessible online.

In addition, competitors must use the AWS RoboMaker development platform for the simulation and Amazon SageMaker to build and train machine learning models. AWS launched RoboMaker last November.

AWS JPL Open-Source Rover Challenge tasks and prizes

Challenge participants must build and train a reinforcement learning model that will autonomously drive the Open-Source Rover in a simulated Martian environment. The one who does so with the least energy consumption and risk of damage wins.

AWS said it has published all the resources participants need to get started on GitHub, including a reference architecture, detailed instructions for setting up simulation and machine learning environments, and a virtual model of JPL’s Open-Source Rover. It has also made available the simulated Mars surface and a scoring function that measures the time taken, fuel consumed, and vehicle wear and tear.

AWS JPL Open-Source Rover Challenge contestants will have to submit their trained reinforcement learning model, as well as their code. AWS said it evaluate all submitted models based on a weighted score. The highest scoring solution will also be incorporated into the JPL Open-Source Rover project for future builders to use.

The grand prize for the AWS JPL Open-Source Rover Challenge is $15,000, and there is a $5,000 runner-up prize.

In addition, the first 100 eligible submissions will each receive $250 in AWS credits. Comptitors can still register online.

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