PR shines at NASA Moonbuggy Race
The team from Petra Mercado High School, in its second year in the competition, finished the half-mile course in 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Finishing in second place was Colegio Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro from Humacao. In third place was Arab High School Team 1 from Arab, Alabama.
The University of Puerto Rico Humacao team placed second in the college division, falling just shy of defending the title it had won in both 2010 and 2011.
Racers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville Team 1, claimed the college-division trophy, and the Purdue University Calumet Team 1 from Hammond, Ind., took home third place.
The winning teams outraced more than 80 teams from 20 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Approximately 600 student drivers, engineers and mechanics -- plus their team advisors and cheering sections – gathered this weekend in Huntsville for the harrowing "space race."
Organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, the race challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered buggies. Traversing the grueling half-mile course, which simulates the cratered lunar surface, race teams face many of the same engineering challenges dealt with by Apollo-era lunar rover developers at the Marshall Center in the late 1960s. The winning teams post the fastest vehicle assembly and race times in their divisions, with the fewest on-course penalties.
Race organizers presented both first-place winners with trophies depicting NASA's original lunar rover. NASA also gave plaques and certificates to every competing team. Sponsor Lockheed Martin Corp. of Huntsville presented the first-place high school and college teams with cash awards of $2,850 each. Individuals on the winning teams also received commemorative medals and other prizes.
Perpetuo Socorro was awarded in the high school division for best moonbuggy design, for solving engineering problems associated with lunar travel, and the rookie award for fastest course completion by a new race team.
"NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race gets bigger and more exciting every year -- just like the career horizons NASA strives to open up to new generations of young engineers, scientists and explorers," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Office, which organizes the race. "We seek to connect the classroom experience to a real, tangible future for every graduate -- one in which some of them, we hope, will be inspired to carry on NASA's mission of discovery and help us reap the benefits back home on Earth."
The race is inspired by the original lunar rover, first piloted across the moon's surface in the early 1970s during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. Eight college teams participated in the first NASA Great Moonbuggy Race in 1994. The race was expanded in 1996 to include high school teams, and student participation has swelled each year since.
NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race has been hosted by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center since 1996. The race is sponsored by NASA's Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate in Washington. Major corporate sponsors are Lockheed Martin Corp., The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Jacobs Engineering ESTS Group, all with operations in Huntsville.
Puerto Rican teams landed the three top honors at the event last year. Teams representing Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School snared the top two berths in the high school division; and, for the second straight year, UPR Humacao, the only school to enter a moonbuggy in every race since it was founded in 1994, held off all comers to win the college division.
A total of 10 Puerto Rico teams took part in this year’s race: Alfonso Casta Martínez (Maunabo), Metropolitana Miguel Such (Río Piedras), Fajardo Vocational School (Río Grande), Isidro A. Sánchez (Luquillo), Petra Mercado (Humacao), Rafaelina E. Lebrón Flores (Patillas), University Gardens (Río Piedras), Academia del Perpetuo Socorro (Humacao), Teodoro Aguilar Mora (Yabucoa) and UPR Humacao.