Editorials, Opinion

From mountains to Mars: W.Va.’s brightest stars

Shooting for the stars 

West Virginia University’s robotics team is out of this world — almost literally. 

Team Mountaineers faced off against dozens of teams from 10 countries to take first place in a Mars-themed competition early this month.  

The 2023 University Rover Challenge was hosted in Hanksville, Utah, at the Mars Desert Research Station, where teams from colleges across the globe competed to build the best next-generation Mars rover. The student-led team is made up of more than 75 undergraduate students and five graduate student mentors across several different degree programs, but only 11 members — a mix of mechanical and aerospace engineering students — made the trip to Utah. 

Besides being the overall victors, Team Mountaineers also took the top spot in several sub-categories, including the Science Mission (soil sample collection) and the Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission. 

An electric future 

And at the end of May, a WVU engineering team took second place in Year One of the four-year national EcoCAR Electric Vehicle Challenge. 

The cross-disciplinary competition among 15 North American universities is managed by Argonne National Laboratory and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and MathWorks. 

“Year One of EcoCAR is all about generating big ideas and developing a strategy for the remainder of the competition,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alejandro Moreno. “These students are already demonstrating the capacity and drive needed to pursue careers in the EV sector and become trailblazers in the mobility industry.”  

Taking second place means WVU’s team is in a good place going into Year Two, which is when each team will get a Cadillac LYRIQ to work on. As The Dominion Post reported previously, teams will be tasked with reengineering the vehicle to add new energy-efficient and customer-friendly features designed to address the decarbonization needs of the automotive industry. 

Moving forward 

West Virginia isn’t really known for its excellence in math and science — though perhaps we should be, considering Katherine Johnson, Homer Hickam and John Nash called the Mountain State home. But these award-winning students prove that our rolling hills can nurture forward-thinking brilliance. 

Now it’s up to the rest of us to make the West Virginia place they can stay — where they can continue the world-changing (and solar-system-changing) work they’ve already started.    

We hope these incredibly talented and accomplished young people can inspire West Virginia to follow them into the better, brighter future they are creating.