Team Carleton: A Day of Discovery and a Final Week of Prep


We wrap up the week — the last full prep week before GMBR — with some updates from Lindsay Los and the Carleton University team…

Last week was a particularly exciting one for the moonbuggy team. Curtis Parks, our project manager, got a call from Hilary Bird, a friend of a friend of one of our team members — who turned out to be a journalism student doing a week-long work placement with Ottawa’s CTV news channel. Hilary had been invited to our comedy night — which was a big hit, lots of fun and raised more than $700! — and though she couldn’t attend, she thought our team would make a really great news story!

So last Thursday afternoon, Hilary and a CTV cameraman came over to Carleton to get some footage and interviews. Curtis, Chris Polowick and I were interviewed and they got lots of footage of us working on the buggy, rolling it around and building parts in the machine shop.

It was all very exciting — but as soon as it was over, we had to start getting things organized for the next day when the Discovery Channel would be sending over a film crew to spend the entire day with us!


A TV crew from Discovery Channel Canada interviews Curtis Parks, Carleton’s
moonbuggy project manager, about his team’s progress toward the
2009 race. (Photo: Carleton University)

Bright and early Friday morning, the Discovery film crew rolled in and started filming us working on the buggy. The first thing they did was hook Curtis up to a hidden microphone so they’d be able to follow all the action over the course of the day. At that point, the buggy had everything on except one set of pedals and the seats, which the film crew was hoping to film being made — it’s an exciting vacuum-forming process done by Industrial Design team member Andrew Lowe. [Note: Lindsay’s brief Q&A with Andrew appears below.] 

We took the buggy for a little spin from our team room down to the machine shop, with the film crew running behind, then set to work for the rest of the day. Everything seemed to be a little bit more exciting and intense with the film crew hovering around. They were in on all the action and would stop us every once in a while to capture our work and explanations of what we were doing. After lunch, Curtis and I were taken aside for extensive individual interviews with one of the producers to give a more detailed explanation of exactly what we were doing this year, how it was different from last year, some experiences we’ve had and what we hope to achieve.


Carleton team member Rakesh Bharathi (rear center) walks the Discovery film crew
through the intricacies of moonbuggy development. (Photo: Carleton University)

After an exhausting but exciting day, we finally got the buggy back to the team room and were just sitting down to figure out what needed to be done next… when we realized it was 5:50 p.m. and our CTV news story was being aired in 10 minutes on the 6 o’clock news! We ran down to the university pub, and got there just in time to watch ourselves on TV. Our story also was put on the Internet newscast and was seen across the country all weekend. Talk about awesome publicity!

We also finally selected our moonbuggy riders for this year’s race. Taking advantage of the machine shop’s lunch break, tryouts were held Tuesday at noon in our athletic center. We decided on a recumbent bicycle tryout to simulate our buggy’s riding position — turns out riding a recumbent bike is a lot harder than it looks! Though there were no other girls and therefore no need for me to try out, I decided to do it anyway, to see how I ranked with the guys. It ended up being a tie for first place between me and Chris Polowick, who will be our male rider. Time to start the serious training now!
 
Q&A with Andrew Lowe, third-year Industrial Design student

How did you get involved in the Moonbuggy Project? 
I got involved in the project after Curtis and Brian [Mattock, Curtis’ fellow project manager] appealed to us designers to help them build a better buggy. The project looked interesting, and I love working with my hands, building things. The ability to apply design principles to the project, and being able to manufacture major parts of the buggy, is what sold me.

What are your contributions as the token Industrial Design student on the team?
I’ve been dealing with the human factors of the moonbuggy. It seemed to me that previous Carleton moonbuggies had been well engineered, but rider, pedal and seating positions had been left as an afterthought. Research into recumbent bicycles and cycling ergonomics led to the initial positioning of the pedals and seat in relation to the riders.

Speaking of seats, they have been my main contribution to the project. The seats were designed through a series of development sketches and then refined and modeled in SolidWorks 2008. They are made of a folding aluminum frame with vacuum-formed ABS plastic bottom and back panels. After a few tweaks, the seats are quite comfortable and definitely spice up the look of our moonbuggy.


Carleton industrial design major Andrew Lowe joined the moonbuggy team this
year to help punch up “the human factor.” He designed this innovative, ergonomic
seat, left, using SolidWorks CAD software; the finished product, right, awaits
installation. (Photo: Carleton University)
 

What have you enjoyed most about the experience?
I’ve enjoyed working with all the engineers involved in the project. I normally work with other designers, and its been nice to work with some more technically minded people. I’m looking forward to representing Carleton’s School of Industrial Design, as well as being one of the few industrial designers at NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race.


Andrew conducts the vacuum-forming process. To get a look at more of his design
work, visit
http://www.lowe9.com. (Photo: Carleton University)

Team Germany: Final Preparations and Inspiring Demos

Ralf Heckel’s got an update on technical work being concluded on the German moonbuggy. His team is preparing to depart for the United States at the end of this week. Race time is nearly upon us!
 
Our new, self-designed differential gear finished its first long-term test. There was normal abrasion after fabrication; a surprise was the abrasion of the brass — the carbon fiber pieces scraped at the brass rings. They are smaller after the 24-hour-test (1,5/100 mm). We bonded them together with two-component glue, and now the four small pinions work perfectly without abrasion.
 
Our electronics department is a disaster. Our student specialist leader is ill, so all the other students must make his work too. But it works! All components are working: data-logger, radiotelemetry, short message display, sensors. Now we assemble all together in our Telebuggy computer case. Tomorrow, our students must make a difficult cable tree with lots of data lines. One is a multiple clip located between the Telebuggy computer and the Moonbuggy. Such a clip [interrupted] a space shuttle launch last year. So it must be very secure.


German moonbuggy CAD designer Fabian Hoffmann hard at work. (Photo: R. Heckel)


Primary work is complete on the German team’s 2009 moonbuggy.
Y’all ready for this? (Photo: R. Heckel)


German moonbuggy teammates Lisa Hartenstein and Thommy Knabe put the
buggy through its paces in bustling Leipzig, Germany. (Photo: R. Heckel)

On March 24, our partner team and their professors from the Moscow Aviation Institute visited us. All liked to ride the moonbuggy. All want to be a part of our Russian team for 2010. The summer school for this team starts in summer 2009 in Leipzig. Also, we got an invitation to visit “the Krim” (Crimea) on the Black Sea. There is an international aerospace conference there for students — we should present the moonbuggy there. Near this place, former Russian rocket chief designer Sergei Korolyov tested his first self-constructed plane.

Heckel and the moonbuggy team also visited recently with Germany’s next generation of Olympic hopefuls at the “High School for Sports” in Leipzig. Check it out at http://www.sportgymnasium-leipzig.de/.

This is Germany’s “elite school of sports” — the most successful school for training of the national Olympics teams’ future generations.
 
Students of athletics and bicycle sports were testing the moonbuggy. This was a complete new experience for all — it was fun and was the ignition for a lot of discussions. The event was organized by the science advisor at the school and by the German Space Education Institute.


German sports students — potential future Olympians — try out the moonbuggy
and talk sports strategy with the GMBR team from the German Space
Education Institute. (Photo: R. Heckel)

The science results of the moonbuggy team are an inspiration for the sport students. Now they are ambassadors for the moonbuggy spirit at the next Olympic games.

Glad to see Germany’s moonbuggy team making such an international impact, and we look forward to the Russian team’s entry in 2010! Certainly, the Germans are putting together a formidable entry in pursuit of this year’s new “Best International Team Race Time” award, one of numerous prizes NASA and its corporate sponsors will present to participants in the 2009 Great Moonbuggy Race.

Will YOUR team take home a prize? We’ll find out in a few short days!

Carleton Woos Discovery,Nears Buggy Completion

Here’s Lindsay Los with more news and insight from the Carleton University moonbuggy team:

 

We’ve had some really exciting developments with the media this week.  After getting some advice from the Media Relations team at Carleton, we managed to get in contact with a couple different TV programs. This led to some chatting with The Discovery Channel and they decided they’d like to get some footage of us doing various moonbuggy tasks! Because they’re based out of Toronto, they asked us to film our team members building parts in the machine shop and assembling the buggy. We happily agreed and spent Friday morning filming each other finishing up parts in the machine shop. When we finally completed our work in the shop, we started building the buggy, and eight hours later, it was assembled!  It still isn’t 100 percent complete — it’s missing pedals and seats, and various other things need to be adjusted, but it was complete enough for a photo shoot with the university publication Carleton Now.

 

Upcoming highlights include making the seats and our rider tryouts. Andrew Lowe, our Industrial Design team member, will be building the seat mold and vacuum-forming the seats followed by some CNC’ing in the machine shop. Tryouts will consist of a short individual time trial on a stationary bike in our Athletics Center. Hopefully we’ll be riding our buggy by the end of next week!

 

 

Carleton team members Curtis Parks, front, Lindsay Los and Brian Mattock show off their nearly finished moonbuggy. (Photo courtesy of Carleton University)

 

  

Hard at work: Clockwise from top: Team members Rakesh Bharathi, Brian Rutkay, Chris Polowick, Brian Mattock and Ayron Catteau. (Photo courtesy of Carleton University)

 

Lindsay also cornered her busy teammates with a quick Q&A. Here’s Brian and Chris in the interrogation seat:

 

Brian Mattock, moonbuggy tech manager

Third-year aerospace engineering student

 

How did you get involved with the Moonbuggy Project?            

I started with the project when it first began here at Carleton. I was young and naïve and was drawn to the glamour of NASA and a trip to Huntsville. I’m glad I got involved — the entire project was one of the coolest things I had done!

What do you do as tech manager?
This year we’re trying to move the project in a direction more critical of engineering principles. As tech manager, I’m responsible to take the work from each design team and make sure they did their math properly. I’m also Curtis’s right-hand man when it comes to the administrative and financial work.

What’s your favorite part of being on the moonbuggy team?

It’s hard to pick just one part that I enjoy the most. If the project wasn’t as much fun as it is, I probably wouldn’t be doing it. But if I really had to pick, it would be seeing the buggy go together. It’s especially rewarding to see paper designs become a reality.

 

Chris Polowick, team welder/all-around superhero

Third-year aerospace engineering student

 

How did you get involved in the Moonbuggy Project? 
I was having a conversation with Brian, our tech manager, about how I wished that [our engineering curriculum] had more actual design projects for students. He told me about the moonbuggy team and said he had an opening for someone to design the suspension. I told him I was interested and it just went from there.

What have you liked best about the project?
I’ve really enjoyed the build so far. I’ve always liked hands-on projects, and actually seeing our design taking shape has been really exciting.

Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to?
It’s going to be really cool to see it finally completed. When the buggy is finished, and we ride it around for the first time, it will be really exciting. We’ve all put a lot of hard work into the project so far, and I’m really interested to see how the final product will turn out. Also… winning.

 

Carleton’s moonbuggy team this week held its Comedy Night fundraiser — get in touch with them to talk about how your school can come up with similar ways to raise money for your Huntsville trip!

2009 Teams to Watch: Team Germany

Ralf Heckel’s back with a spotlight on the German Space Education Institute and its 2009 moonbuggy team.

 

Our claim: “As a space engineer, you must decline what is not the best as you can give.” — Wernher von Braun

 

The German Space Education Institute

The German Space Education Institute (SEI) in Leipzig is a grassroots association of public utility and support for the engineering professions in the astronautics sector. More than 60 prominent international specialists work for this unique initiative. They offer international students excursions and internships in the aerospace industry via Germany to the United States and Russia. There is a variety of possibilities among the association’s programs, including full-time activities for 8th grade students, international competitions, advancement for A-level students, exchange programs and various special tasks for talented school students.

 

Participants who graduate excellently in Leipzig (in workshops and excursions on weekends or on holidays) are delegated to the Cosmos Olympiad in Moscow or to NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville, Ala. Because of the Institute’s relationship to industry and business, graduating from the German Space Education Institute opens doors: helping students get jobs, or get accepted for further studies.

 

The German Space Education Institute is launching its first international space-student exchange program in 2009. It is about the common construction of a test mobile for the preparation of the manned flight to Mars. U.S. students from Huntsville and Russian space students will meet German space students in Leipzig and elsewhere. They can trace the historical paths of Dr. Wernher von Braun and Sputnik designer Sergei Korolyov, complete technical internships in large factories and produce parts for their moonbuggy at Leipzig‘s small handcraft factories. (Leipzig is home to numerous key players in early space exploration, including Dr. Eberhard Rees, who earned his diploma there as a young engineer, then managed a local engineering company before coming to the United States. Rees eventually became the second director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which organizes the Great Moonbuggy Race!)

 

The German Space Education Institute is thankful for every interested engineer and industrial partner who has helped to build science bridges for exploration around the globe. Its international education partners in Russia are the Institute for Biomedical Problems (IMBP) in Moscow, the Youth Space Center Moscow, the Baumann Technical University Moscow and the Professorship for Life Support Systems in Space.

 

Institute registration starts now!

 

The 2009 German Moonbuggy Team

Ralf and Yvonne Heckel have been advisors at the Space Education Institute in Germany since 2001. Yvonne is representative of the Space Camp® ambassador program and the Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS. She is the financial part of the German Moonbuggy team. Ralf is the technician and is teaching and selecting the German students to take part in high-level space challenges, university and jobs. He has space contacts around the globe — and into orbit. He writes books and is the organizer of the German Moonbuggy team.

 

Lisa Hartenstein of Chemnitz, Germany, started at SEI this year. She is the female moonbuggy pilot and specialist for marketing, sponsorship and security.

 

Thommy Knabe of Plauen, Germany, has been an SEI student and part of the moonbuggy team since 2006. He is the kinematic specialist for the German moonbuggy, and constructed the first moonbuggy simulator. See Thommy’s work here.

 

Fabian Hoffmann of Leipzig, Germany, has been an SEI student since 2005. He is the CAD designer for the moonbuggy body.

 

 

Christian Hein of Stendal, Germany, joined SEI in 2008. Working with younger students, Christian designed the differential gear and carbon pieces. See Christian’s work here.

 

Christian Schmidt of Dusseldorf, Germany, joined SEI this year. He is the electronics and software specialist for moonbuggy telemetry. A sample of his work can be seen here.

 

  

Cosma Heckel like to fly with her parents around the world. She made 32 airplane flights in two years, saw two rocket launches and was present for the Great Moonbuggy Race in 2007 and 2008. Here, she’s visiting the Soviet robotic lunar rover Lunokhod in Kaluga, the Russian hometown of Konstantin Tsiolkovski.

 

 

German designer Bruno Banani is our main sponsor. He is Germany‘s only non-government main sponsor for space education. We are also thankful to all our other sponsors and partners.

School Pride the HCT Way

John Stingel, Huntsville Center for Technology computer electronics instructor, is back this week with some proud school history and a little race insight for newcomers. From the GMBR perspective, it’s terrific to see an entire school embrace its moonbuggy race team the way HCT does! Does yours? Spread the love! Talk to your advisor about getting a team spotlight into your school paper; try putting your buggy on display for a week outside your cafeteria or auditorium; or work with your school administration to launch “Moonbuggy Appreciation Day” for classmates and faculty to come out and watch you put the vehicle through its paces. We’re proud of your hard work and ingenuity; we know your school is too! Here’s Mr. Stingel:

Let me tell you a little about HCT. We are part of the Huntsville, Ala., city school system. Our school opened with the 1967-1968 school year. Presently we have 16 teachers teaching 14 different courses or skill areas. We love technology and get involved, as a school, in numerous projects like NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, the “HUNCH” project — High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware — and our latest project, designing and building a hovercraft. 

As far as the moonbuggy team is concerned, the true “team honcho” is Mr. White, the Precision Machine Technology instructor. Mr. White takes students from all the other HCT classes, trains them and develops them into a racing team. The building of the moonbuggies is a school-wide project, but all aspects of the design and build come under Mr. White’s supervision. My students and I assist Mr. White with the blog and any computer-related tasks.

It is true that HCT has had several amazing racing teams and moonbuggies over the past several years. It is also true that we have worked very hard as a school to accomplish these wins. If Mr. White needs help, or a technical skill not found in the machine shop, he knows he can call on any class, instructor or individual within our school and he will get 100 percent effort.

If you’ve been around the Great Moonbuggy Race, you know the competition is getting more and more intense. The difference between placing and not placing is seconds. As a result, you must have your racing and design skills highly tuned.

I was talking to Mr. White just last week about our very first Great Moonbuggy Race entry. We knew we had designed a winner. We had a powerful team and a great buggy — we could not lose.  “We had first place in the bag,” Mr. White said, “right up until the start of the race.” 

That first moonbuggy lasted about three-fourths of the way through the first heat, if that. I must tell you, however — the team carried it to the finish line. We were so wrong about the design of the buggy… but right about the heart of the team.

So get your team and moonbuggy together and come and compete!

Mr. Stingel will be back next week with a spotlight on HCT’s moonbuggy team members and their thoughts on the race.


The very first winning team… with its losing moonbuggy! (Photo: HCT)

Where's a Team to Weld?


The troupe from
Carleton University was dealing with machine shop woes this week — and with the local limelight. Here’s Lindsay Los with an update on Carleton’s moonbuggy team:
 
With a presentation and various media photo shoots scheduled, everyone has been putting in all available time this week (including class time) at the machine shop, getting parts ready to be welded. 

When we showed up Wednesday morning, however, ready for a day of welding, we found that the MIG welder had been taken over by the 4th-year students’ Formula SAE Car project — and the TIG welder had been broken all week! Things started to get a little stressful as we frantically thought of our limited options. 1) Pay to use the university’s maintenance machine shop… not sure if they would do that for us though… 2) Use the Industrial Design program’s machine shop. We do have a few ID students on the Carleton moonbuggy team, but that shop is specifically for ID school projects, so… 3) Well, there really wasn’t a third option!

While Curtis was frantically trying to figure out some way for us to weld, I was dealing with e-mails and phone calls from university and city publications and media, all of whom wanted photo shoots and interviews during the presentation. Scheduling photo shoots during my morning tutorial — while receiving text messages saying the buggy wasn’t going to be ready in time — was stressful, to say the least! Finally, we managed to get some time with the welder in the ID shop, and while Brian, Curtis and Chris finished the welding, I finished my Materials test in my tutorial so I could join them to help assemble the frame. 
 
After a frantic morning, everything worked out in the end. The photographers from the Ottawa Citizen and Carleton Now showed up, and after seeing our semi-assembled buggy, agreed to come back next week, when we could do a “cool” photo shoot with us actually riding the buggy. Luckily, the TV station that was going to come as well didn’t show, so hopefully we’ll be able to contact them for an interview next week. 

We hope by then Lindsay and Co. will be ready for their close-up! Happy assembly period, teams!

2009 Teams to Watch: Huntsville Center for Technology


Savvy racers know their competition, and few names fire up moonbuggy teams like the Huntsville Center for Technology. One of two HCT teams took first place in the high school division in 2006, the school took first AND second place in 2007, and last year they continued to eat up the top slots, coming in second and third behind new champs from Erie High School in Erie, Kan.

The Buggy Blog encourages all new racers to drop by HCT’s pit area, talk with the team — and then give them the race of their lives! Here’s team honcho John Stingel, man of few words, with some introductory thoughts:

The Huntsville Center for Technology is back for another year!

We’ve enjoyed being international Great Moonbuggy Race champions and would like to do it again. This year we will be entering two moonbuggies. Students have been training harder now that we have our new in-house moonbuggy track at the school.

We would like to Skype with a school that has a moonbuggy team or perhaps is thinking about entering. If you are interested, e-mail us.

Some photos:


Students training on our new in-house Moonbuggy track (Photo: HCT)


We have been hard at work redesigning elements of our moonbuggy. (Photo: HCT)


Some of the repairs we had to make were obvious… (Photo: HCT)


… and some not so easy and not so obvious! (Photo: HCT)


Last year’s winners in action: Huntsville Center for Technology Team II riders, left,
pedaled into second place at the 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race, held April 4-5, 2008.
HCT Team I, right, took third place.  (Photos: NASA/MSFC/
David Higginbotham)

The school is gunning to retake the championship in 2009. Can your team keep that from happening?

Not a Race,But a Journey

One of the most familiar faces at the Great Moonbuggy Race in recent years is that of Ralf Heckel, the team advisor for the student racers from the German Space Education Institute in Leipzig. For the past three years, Ralf and his wife Yvonne have led their team across the pond with so much energy and enthusiasm even competitors end up rooting for them! Here, Ralf describes where that energy comes from. His English isn’t flawless — but see if you don’t get the same thrill we do from Ralf’s indomitable spirit.


 


Hello friends:
 
NASA is planning the celebrations to 40 years men on the moon (Apollo 11). Russia is planning the celebrations to 50 years mankind on the moon (Luna 2). Both have their own projects: NASA will launch the LCROSS and Ares 1 and Russia is planning the infrastructure for a space station in the moonorbit. The Russian-led Mars 500 project is launching, and we are in as designers for the Marsrover, with our international team of student engineers. No challenge is too high for these students — everyone will find a way.
 
It is not longer a race — it is a journey, side by side. Nothing is science fiction. We are living in the future and this is great.
 
NASA’s annual Great Moonbuggy Race is not a game — it is hard reality. You must make a hard and good job to reach an award. But this award you will have lifelong, and it is a step into all our futures.

The last two weeks were holidays in Germany. Our students use all this time for their Moonbuggy. We are competitors three years now. In 2007, our first year, we made a very good job — in six weeks from a white paper to a Moonbuggy. The results were grand: Rookie Award and Best Design Award.

Some parents and teachers don’t understand the core values of the contest. They said: “What, for a curious soapbox-race?” It is really not easy to earn respect in the car nation of Germany! Now, Prof. Natalya Korolev, the daughter of Sputnik designer Sergei Korolev, is supporting the international idea of the Moonbuggy Race. She was in Huntsville 2008. We traveled three times to the USA and three times to Russia last year — all for this international idea!

2009 is the last year for our German Moonbuggy in steel. The future is composite, starting in 2010. For this material you need lots of science data. So our Moonbuggy Team has two new sections: electronic and software. In 2008, we had a telemetry system to see the tracking of our moonbuggy on the course. Now [our self-written] software analysis program can show you the exact speed, acceleration and forces. With a, onboard video camera, our pilots can see their mistakes.

The 2009 Moonbuggy will have lots of more sensors, a data logging system and a data radio transmission. The software for the radio transmission and telemetry analysis is ready and works very well. The software to make analysis of the sensor data is far from ready. Our specialists will need time to have first results. These we will use next year.
 
Last week Thommy and Sasha finished the changes to the chassis. They used Corel Draw and Solid Works for CAD. Thommy use the calculations for the moonbuggy transmission for his final secondary-school examinations this year. They were in a factory to finish their work — welding, drilling, bending.

Christian finished his differential gear on the computer. It is a high-tech construction, with 92 different parts to use for two drivers. The lathe operator [first] saw the outlines and said: “Not possible.” Today he tested the first set of parts and said, “Excellent work!” Christian has a big future as a CAD designer.

The 2008 German team can be seen here. We’ll add more pictures of the 2009 team in action later this week, and Ralf will be back soon with more updates on their progress toward race day.

To download more pictures of the German team on tour across Europe and in action on the course, download this Zip file. If you’d like to contact Ralf to talk moonbuggy tech, drop him a line at ralf.heckel@spacepass.de.

No Room in the Machine Shop? ROAD TRIP!

Lindsay Los, 21, is a third-year mechanical engineering student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Last year, as Carleton’s female moonbuggy driver, she helped push her team to third place in the college division. She’s driving again this year, and she aims to win.

It’s Carleton’s “Reading Week” this week — a break in the school routine for some “frantic catching up,” Lindsay says, prior to mid-terms — but she also found time to write about her team for the Buggy Blog:

 


Optimism, dedication, enthusiasm, and great spirit — these are just a few of the words Professor Kaya, our faculty supervisor, used to describe our team’s attitude over the past six months — especially given the fact that we haven’t had a lot of financial support from the university. Our team did not let any bumps in the road stop them, however, and with less than 50 days left till race day, we are well on our way to completing the buggy that we hope will help us defend our bronze medal! 

After four months of designing the buggy, we finally completed a working design we were happy with. Now it was off to the Carleton Machine Shop to get the action started!


Carleton team members Curtis Parks, front, and Chris Polliwick use a circular saw
in the school’s  machine shop to cut aluminum for their buggy.

Because our team is competing for shop time with multiple other engineering projects, we decided to speed up the building process by taking matters into our own hands. Fortunately our project manager Curtis Parks’ family has a fully equipped machine shop at their house, just waiting for our moonbuggy!


Team members Chris Polliwick, left, and Brian Mattock work on the moonbuggy’s frame.

We loaded up all the cut aluminum and drove four hours to Peterborough, Ontario, where our personal machine shop was waiting. Twenty hours of welding, three sunburns and one hot tub party later, we had two completed moonbuggy frames. (As it turned out, the sunburns may have been a positive thing — and may even have gotten Curtis an awesome summer job!  When asked about his incredibly red and slightly puffy eyes in a job interview several days later, Curtis was able to launch into an exciting spiel about the moonbuggy, the hands-on engineering experience he was getting and how amazingly applicable it would be in an engineering workplace. I’d definitely hire him!)

Lindsay conducted a quick interview with Curtis, also a third-year mechanical engineering student, during their work in the machine shop. Some excerpts:

L: How did you get involved in “MB03,” our Moonbuggy project?
C: Last year’s moonbuggy project needed some help in the machine shop, and I was asked since I already had some experience. Then I started to get more involved with the design, because I found it really interesting.


The 2008 Carleton team pedals its way to third place in the 15th annual
Great Moonbuggy Race.

L: What’s your favorite thing about being involved in MB03? 
C: The competition. Driving down to Alabama last year and being at the competition was such a cool experience — especially things like talking to the NASA engineers who worked on the original projects, and meeting other teams from around the world. Also, being project manager this year has been really interesting and fun. 

We’ll check in with Lindsay and Team Carleton again soon — once mid-terms are behind them! 

Offworld Racing — NASA-style!

 
Greetings from Huntsville, Ala., the race capital of the world — if you’re driving a sweet, tricked-out moonbuggy, that is.


Student racers from the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind., speed to
victory in the college division of NASA’s 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race in
April 2008. (NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given)

NASA and more than 500 students from high schools, home schools, colleges, vocational schools and universities around the world are gearing up for the 16th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race, to be held here at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center April 3-4.

If you know about the Great Moonbuggy Race, you know it’s a big cornerstone of our education outreach here at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which organizes the event each year. It’s also the culmination of a lot of work on the part of dozens of race teams, made up of bright, energetic young people from all over America and as far away as Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India, Mexico and Romania.

If you don’t already know everything there is to know about the moonbuggy race, do yourself a favor and check it out — it’s the most fun you can have on four wheels.

As I write this, 88 teams have registered for this year’s contest. Some have spent weeks or months designing their moonbuggies — lightweight, two-person racers based on the design of the original NASA lunar rovers used in the early 1970s during the Apollo missions. Now the teams are assembling their buggies, field-testing them and preparing themselves — because those who’ve been here before know the simulated lunar race course here in Huntsville is not for the faint of heart. Or the weak of soldered joint.

A number of this year’s racers have agreed to check in with us in the weeks leading up to the race. They’ll write about the engineering hurdles they’re overcoming, insider tips on conquering the grueling otherworldly track, and their various moonbuggy-related adventures between now and race day.

And on April 3-4, we’ll talk live with the racers, post their race reactions — and even provide up-to-the-minute race results via Twitter. So stay tuned, and let’s race!