Cameron University students claim best finish to date NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race

A team of students from Cameron University took fifth place in the college division of the 17th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race, sponsored by NASA, as well as the award for Most Improved, presented to the team demonstrating the most dramatically improved engineering and performance. CU's Aggie team - the only team from the state of Oklahoma - was among 70 teams from 18 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India and Romania. More than 600 drivers, engineers and mechanics - all students - gathered with their team advisors and cheering sections to take part in the matchup of wits and wheels at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Cameron's team worked diligently throughout the semester, resulting in a successful vehicle and landing in the top five, our best finish ever," says Andrew Duffield, faculty advisor. "For our students to be honored with the Most Improved Award is extremely rewarding and signals that we're on the right track for an even higher finish next year."

photo of Cameron moonbuggy in race

The 2010 CU moonbuggy team consists of Aaron Cobb and Donald Price, Lawton; Jesus Rittenhouse, Olustee; Miwa Fukuda, Maebashi City, Japan; Blagica Ristovska, Stip, Macedonia; Jovan Trajcev, Skopje, Macedonia; John Correll, Marlow; and Curtis Richey, Cache. Faculty member Mark Polson joined Duffield as advisor for the project.

The race, organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies that tackle many of the same engineering challenges dealt with by the original Apollo-era lunar rover developers at the Marshall Center in the late 1960s.That team had the challenge to design and build a compact, light, flexible and durable vehicle that would carry astronauts on the moon's surface during the Apollo missions. Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and Jim Irwin piloted the first rover across the moon's surface in July 1971. The moonbuggy continued to chart new lunar territory during the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions.

To get to the race, teams must design their buggies, build them and test them - in much the same way that NASA engineers design space equipment. The students configure it to fit in a container no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet by 4 feet before assembly.

Two racers, one male and one female, must lift and carry the unassembled moonbuggy 20 feet without assistance and assemble it while being timed. Many teams use lightweight materials, bicycle gearing systems and bicycle wheels to pull together what they hope will be an award winner. Just like NASCAR, the teams have pit crews ready to repair buggies that suffer damage while trekking the course's rough terrain.

The race is a grueling endurance test over a half-mile course of twists, turns and inclines, as well as simulated lunar craters, rocks, lava ridges and soil. Like the moon's actual terrain, the course is tough and the two buggy drivers who power the vehicle must be in top athletic condition.

The event is sponsored by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Jacobs ESTS Group and Northrop Grumman Corporation.





April 21, 2010