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Khalifa University Participates in Emirates Mars Mission’s Planet X Youth Challenge

December 26, 2021
The AeroX team with Eng. Omran Sharaf (center), Project Manager of the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) - Hope Probe


Khalifa University competed in the Planet X Youth Challenge, a nationwide event aimed to promote students’ interest in STEM. The competition was launched by the Emirates Mars Mission, in partnership with Dubai Airshow 2021, and was designed specifically to inspire the youth to pursue careers in space and aviation. 


A prequalification round was held in September where more than 200 teams from various universities in the country applied to be part of the challenge. This was followed by a two-day training in October. And finally, the main challenge that took place during the Dubai Airshow 2021.  


AeroX, KU’s representative team to the competition, was among the top 6 groups that qualified to compete in the final stage of the challenge after scoring a high score in the Python Hackathon. The team was composed of undergraduate students:

  • Soghah Mohamed Ali Jedeid Alshehhi (Electrical Engineering);
  • Ahmed Husain Hamad Abdulla Alawani (Aerospace Engineering);
  • Somayyah Mohamed Rashed Abdulla Althabahi (Aerospace Engineering); and
  • Fatema Saleh Hasan Ali Almarzooqi (Aerospace Engineering). 


During the finals, the teams worked on two main challenges:

  • UAV Challenge – The teams were tasked to design, print, and present an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that will be able to conduct exploration missions and collect samples on a fictional planet, Planet X. In creating the model UAV, the teams had to consider the physics behind the design, as well as the environment of the planet. 
  • UGV Challenge – This challenge required teams to program an unmanned ground vehicle robot to accomplish several tasks while successfully overcoming obstacles within the 5-minute time limit. 


The AeroX team designed an UAV specific to the environment of Planet X, taking into consideration its gravity, surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, etc. The team observed the differences between Earth’s environment and Planet X, and from their observations they were able to develop their UAV “HEXAPLORE”. Hexaplore is a unique UAV that has five main parts: hexagonal body (base), hexa rotor, higher antenna, drills, and a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator (MMRTG). It is designed to automatically perform the missions required to explore Planet X, including discovering new areas, taking pictures, and collecting samples.


“From this experience, we are able to sharpen our way of thinking and we have gained a lot of knowledge about space missions, especially the Emirates missions. Furthermore, the challenges introduced us to a new programming language and designing software that helped us complete the challenges,” Fatema and Soghah said. 


“We are very honored that we got the chance to meet people from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) who are currently working on different space missions and Eng. Omran Sharaf, the project manager of the UAE’s first mission to Mars. Winning the prize wasn’t our only consideration in participating but meeting these passionate people who push us, the youth, to take part in these amazing opportunities and motivate us to work hard to have a bright future working on STEM jobs,” they added.


Ara Maj Cruz
Creative Writer
26 December 2021