This Mexican College Robotics Team Just Owned a NASA Competition

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Fans of Donald Trump can officially start freaking out: Mexicans are invading the US space program. Well not in any official way, but a group of engineers from the UNAM have just taken the top prize at a robotics competition sponsored by NASA and Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a charming little robot named Rover.

Under the flashy title Sample Return Robot Challenge 2016, the competition brought together 11 teams from different countries to see who could cook up the most effective self-powered sample collecting machine. For his part, Rover clocked in at 22 kilograms with a street value of around $10,000, but the symbolic value of his win is closer to priceless.

As group representative Juan Carlos Mariscal reinforced in a recent statement, “We want Mexico to be at the level of any space agency in the world, and be taken into consideration for all missions, including from NASA.” And indeed, the nine-members comprising UNAM Space have plans to spin their triumphant win off into a company that will take their work out of the laboratory and into the industry.

“We have the same abilities as any other student in the world,” Mariscal continued. “The UNAM is one of the best [universities], and our creativity is what makes us unique.” Luckily for them, the UNAM has thrown a lot of weight behind that creativity; and the group of computer, electric, and industrial engineers is being backed by important institutions like Center for Applied Sciences and Technological Development and the Institute for Research in Applied Mathematics and Systems.

With this type of talent brewing down south, and space exploration heating up to levels unseen since the height of the cold war, the first flag we see flying over Mars might actually be red, white, and green.