PR sweeps NASA’s Moonbuggy Race
Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa won first place in the high school división, while racers from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao claimed the college-division trophy.
The winning teams outraced more than 89 teams from 23 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, India, Germany, Mexico and Russia. Approximately 600 student drivers, engineers and mechanics -- plus their team advisors and cheering sections -- gathered this weekend for the 20th “space race” at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Organized by the Marshall Space Flight Center, 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.
The team from Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School, in its third year in the competition, finished the half-mile course in 3 minutes, 24 seconds.
UPR Humacao, which won second place in the college division in the 2012 race, brought home a first-place win, finishing in 3 minutes, 32 seconds.
Finishing in second place this year in the high school division was Jupiter High School Team 1 of Jupiter, Fla. In third place was Jupiter High School Team 2.
International Space Education Institute/Moscow Aviation University "Team Russia" of Moscow won second place in the college division; and Middle Tennessee State University of Murfreesboro took home third place.
Race organizers presented both first-place winners with trophies depicting NASA’s original lunar rover. Sponsor SAIC of Huntsville provided every participating moonbuggy team with a commemorative plaque. Sponsor Lockheed Martin Corp. of Huntsville presented the first-place high school and college teams with cash awards of $3,000 each.
Individuals on the winning teams also received commemorative medals and other prizes.
The race is inspired by the original lunar rover, first piloted across the moon's surface in the early 1970s during the Apollo 15 mission, and used in the subsequent Apollo 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. Major corporate sponsors for the race are Lockheed Martin Corporation, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Aerojet and Jacobs Engineering ESSSA Group, all with operations in Huntsville.
Rafaelina E. Labrón Flores High School in Patillas won the featherweight award for the lightest craft. The school also took home the rookie award for fastest course completion by a new race team.
The spirit award for overall team energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie went to Petra Mercado High School in Humacao.
The best report award for technical documentation of the equipment and procedures used in design, build, test and the results obtained went to UPR Mayaguez.
The top-place wins and additional awards build on the Puerto Rico’s stellar track record at NASA’s annual Great Moonbuggy Race.
A total of 10 teams of high school and university students from Puerto Rico took part in the 20th edition of the annual contest. The local competitors include teams from the UPR campuses in Humacao and Mayagüez. Students from the following high schools are also among the field of 99 teams from around the world: Petra Mercado (Humacao); Rafaelina E. Lebrón (Patillas); Pedro Falú (Río Grande); University Gardens (Río Piedras); Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro (Humacao); and Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational (Yabucoa).
Last year, two Humacao teams led the way to take first and second place in the high school division.
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 in Humacao.
The UPR Humacao team placed second in the college division, falling just shy of defending the titles it had won in both 2010 and 2011.
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.
Puerto Rican teams landed the three top honors in the 2011 edition. 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.