Tag Archives: Marshall Space Flight Center

Let's Roll!

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On Feb. 17 NASA announced the roster of teams set to compete April 1-2 at the 18th annual NASA Great Moonbuggy Race — and the race season is officially under way!


Ezra Logreira, left, and Karine Wittenborg, moonbuggy racers from the Huntsville
Center for Technology, are geared up for this year’s Great Moonbuggy Race.
(MSFC/David Higginbotham)

A total of 84 student teams have registered to roll out their wheeled wonders at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. They include U.S. high school, college and university students from 22 states and Puerto Rico; and international challengers from six countries, including — for the first time — racers from Ethiopia, Pakistan and Russia. For the complete list of 2011 teams, visit http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov.

Every year, the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered rovers — tackling some of the same engineering challenges overcome by Apollo-era lunar rover developers at the Marshall Center in the late 1960s.

“This project engages the aerospace talent of tomorrow in hands-on engineering,” said Dr. Frank Six, Marshall’s university affairs officer and one of the race founders. “They learn by doing.”

This year’s race has a special historic impact — 40 years ago, the first NASA Lunar Roving Vehicle was used on the surface of the moon. NASA’s historic lunar rover made its inaugural excursion July 31, 1971, driven by Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin. Two more rovers followed in 1972, during the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions.

Four decades later, moonbuggy racers strive to uphold the legacy of that engineering feat. Their challenge is to deliver a two-driver vehicle capable of posting the fastest vehicle assembly and race times, while incurring the fewest penalties on a course that simulates the harsh lunar surface. High school students square off in one division; college and university teams compete in another.

Race organizers expect another heated contest this year. But Six said he also looks forward to that special “moonbuggy camaraderie” on and off the course — a hallmark of the event which transcends region, ethnicity and even language barriers.

“Students hailing from four continents come together in friendly competition,” he said. “More importantly, they come to meet one another, to compare ideas and turn shared dreams of spaceflight into lasting friendships and future partnerships.”

NASA will broadcast live race coverage via NASA TV and the online Webcasting service UStream. In 2010, more than 32,000 people around the world watched live coverage, including commentary from race organizers and chats with student racers.

Race enthusiasts also can track race news on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/moonbuggyrace, and keep up with real-time Twitter updates during the race at http://twitter.com/moonbuggyrace.

Team Carleton: The Aftermath!

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The Carleton University team is back home in the wake of NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville, Ala., April 3-4. They’re heading into the home stretch on their spring term at Carleton, as are most colleges and universities, but our resident blogger and 2009 Carleton moonbuggy co-driver Lindsay Los took time out to send us some final thoughts…

Well, after a year of buildup, the 2009 Great Moonbuggy Race is finally over. After an eventful and dramatic two days of racing, it was time to pack up the buggy and team and head back home.

Not before handing out some Canadian souvenirs though! On Sunday morning Raakesh decided to sacrifice his case of Molson Canadian beer to give as gifts to some of the other international teams at the competition. We dropped off some bottles for the German and Indian teams and snapped some pictures with them before starting the long trip home. 

Twenty-one hours later, we finally pulled into Carleton at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, April 6.  I didn’t think it would be possible to experience such an array of weather in such a small time period, but I guess that’s what happens when you drive across half a continent!  On the way down to Alabama we turned on the radio to hear tornado warnings and half an hour later experienced torrential rains. Then we had beautiful weather during the races — only to return home to Ottawa with fresh snow and wintery weather!

Once we were home, it was back to studying and regular school activities — like watching ourselves on Discovery Channel’s “The Daily Planet!” It was fun to see the 10-minute compilation of three days of filming, though we all had a feeling there would be a lot of footage of the “finger incident” — which turned out to be correct.

Re: the “finger incident” — Lindsay’s fellow driver Chris Polowick suffered the most noteworthy injury of this year’s GMBR. When his chain slipped during the first day of racing, Chris put a hand down to try to get it back into place — and inadvertently put a finger into his sprocket. Even with his glove on, he was cut deeply. But after a quick visit to the ER, some stitches — and, we’re guessing, a little good-natured ribbing from his teammates and competitors — Chris was right back in the buggy with Lindsay on Day 2, battling it out. What a trooper!

Also on the agenda, now that this year’s moonbuggy race was over, was figuring out who would take over for next year. Because the moonbuggy team is a project within the Carleton SEDS (Saturday Engineering and Design Sessions) club, Curtis and Brian decided to include the moonbuggy leader positions with the CuSEDS annual election.


Lindsay and Chris push hard on Day 1, but Chris’s injury and a harrowing
2009 course knocked last year’s third-place victors down to 17th place.
Nonetheless, we know Carleton will be back in 2010 — and they’ll be
back to win! (Credit: NASA/MSFC/D. Stoffer)

On April 7, we had a big electoral meeting of the CuSEDS group and the new execs were elected for next year. It turned out all the executive positions were filled by this year’s moonbuggy team members — good job, team! The actual moonbuggy project positions, however, are still in the process of being decided. Because leading the moonbuggy team is such a big job, we agreed that it would be better for Curtis and Brian to interview the candidates one on one. So I guess you’ll have to wait til next year to find out!

For more about the CUSEDS program: http://cuseds.engsoc.org/

We’ll be glad to have you back in 2010, Carleton racers! And Chris — fingers and toes inside the moonbuggy at all times… =)

Team Germany in America: A Day in the Workshop

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The energy and efficiency of the German Space Education Institute team never ceases to amaze us. For the last couple days, they’ve been scrambling to get their moonbuggy reassembled after its cross-Atlantic voyage, putting it through its paces to ensure they’re ready for the race this weekend, spending time with fellow racers from around the globe, talking with local media and seeing the sights — and STILL team member Anne Geyer finds time to post some thoughts on the experience for the Buggy Blog! Thanks, Anne!


German Space Education Institute team member and blogger Anne Geyer.
(Photo: R. Heckel)

March 30, 2009

Today the alarm clock already rings 6:45 o’clock. A hard day approaches. Dress, breakfast and already it starts. 8 o’clock on time we drive onto the ground of the Huntsville Center for Technology. They are already waiting for us. First we greet the director, Mr. Turner, and then we take a short look into the school. We are received as we are used to — very friendly.

Tim White, the responsible teacher for the local moonbuggy team, shows us the workshop, which impresses us a lot. Lathes, upright drill presses and mills would be a dream for our garage in Leipzig. Many things might be finished considerably more quickly and in a simpler way, particularly for small changes to components a lot of work and of course time would be saved. Photos on the walls show their successes of the last years and their own test track.

The thoughts of going to race against a team that is so well prepared for the course worries me a little bit — there are already many advantages for the American teams: their own workshops, the support of the schools and the short journey, during which their moonbuggies do not have to be disassembled into pieces.

Next we get shown the moonbuggies. Yes it is not only one, there are FOUR. Two are still from the last year and two are driven for this year’s race by four teams. However, when we have a look at the moonbuggies more closely, my doubts are dispelled again. Our moonbuggy can keep up, definitively. It seems to be lighter and more flexible; however, [we won’t know for sure] until the race course itself, because we still lack experience.

We do not allow ourselves a lot of time for the comparing, because we want to begin at last. For tomorrow [Tuesday, March, 31] we are invited to a small test race at HCT and then the moonbuggy must go. However, before the assembly — the unpacking.


Team Germany starts assembling its buggy. (Photo: R. Heckel)

At last the chrome-plated parts lie cleanly and tidily on the workshop floor to be screwed together for our moonbuggy. Separately these parts seem insignificant, but in my head they get together to become a vehicle — one that is more than the sum of its components. All our hopes and dreams enter this work, and we are proud to have created it so far.

Christian and I work on the rear axle and attach the sub frame and the S-lead springs in order to mount the seat and the wheels. Lisa gets the seats with the new, freshly printed purchases. Fabian and Thommy work on the front-wheel suspension. The rear axle and the front axle are joined with each other. The basic thing is now created. Only still the front seat with the shock absorbers, some smaller precision adjustments, and the cable harness for the telemetry and the braking lines are missing. At the end, [we determine] whether all nuts are tightened. Then the moonbuggy is ready to start.

During the time we put that buggy together, a reporter and photographer of the Huntsville Times comes by. They take stock in our engineering. While declaring the construction, we notice how our enthusiasm is increasing more and more. Christian is explaining the most interesting parts, from the Schlumpf gears and the Rohloff transmission up to the differential, and with every point the astonishment became greater. Even the interior of the differential was examined with manifest astonishment.

But now it is done. After endless weekends of long work, and the 24-hour trip to Huntsville and an 5-hour uninterrupted assembling, we roll at last from the garage of the Center of Technology with our moonbuggy.

Lisa, our first pilot, describes her experiences as follows:

We turn our first round around the ground and all looks follow us. Curiously and skeptically the other teams look to us afterwards. I notice that the steering falls to me more easily today. And we are ready to go over the obstacle, a big gravel heap. The moonbuggy is put to test. At 20 kph, we direct to the obstacle, then everything works very quickly — a jump, a well subdued strike and already we are over the gravel heap. Slowly it starts to be fun, so we take another training round: jump over this and that obstacle, try us in sharp curves or test simply our high speed.


Lisa and Thommy brave the test track at the Huntsville Center for Technology.
HCT hosted the German team this year, and they’ve spent the week comparing notes
and helping each other practice. (Photo: R. Heckel)

Thommy, our other pilot, describes his first ride like this:

It is 1:30 p.m. when I drive the buggy for the first time on American ground. It is a special feeling. Lisa and I go into the sun and turn first just a small run around the building. This first test run proceeds very satisfactorily. No unexpected noises are heard and the mechanics function wonderfully. The gears work like a Swiss clockwork. We drive back to the garage and discuss the parts to be changed. Then we start onto the test course, which consists of several hills and obstacles. This training proceeds very well. We try out different situations. [We simulate getting stuck in gravel] to see whether we can fight with our gears out of this situation. Our moonbuggy masters this challenge with bravura. Indeed the wheels spin, but with united strengths, Lisa and I manage to drive it off the gravel. It is nice to know that we have a competitive buggy and that the work of the last weeks is quite exact and solid.

After long and hard practicing, we return our buggy to the garage at 5 o’clock and prepare it for the training tomorrow. We also visit with a team from India, who arrived today in Huntsville. They do not know yet how to get their buggy onto the wheels. It was transported as a whole and must be repaired now, they say.


All cleaned up at the end of the day, the team is ready to hit the town for
dinner — confident in a job well done. (Photo: R. Heckel)

It’s my idea to go to the Chinese restaurant where we ate very well three years ago. We all freshen up before we sit down in the car again and set off. Unfortunately it turns out that the restaurant is closed on Mondays! So Ralf decides we should go to the El Palacio restaurant in Huntsville to enjoy our dinner there. Presumably deserved, I think! It does not take a long time to be served. We eat our deliciousness from the Mexican kitchen. After that we sit down at our daily reports. I think that every evening should finish like this. We laugh a lot and we are totally happy that the day was successful.

'Flying by the Seat of Our Pants'

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Just when Mike Selby thought he was out, they pulled him back in! Mike, a Marshall Space Flight Center avionics engineer and head scorekeeper for NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, recalls his days as a moonbuggy racer at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH):

I was part of the UAH team in 1995 and 1996, during my last two years as an engineering undergraduate. When the race started in 1994, it was held in the summer, and it had been primarily an engineering design activity for seniors. So in 1995 we had lost all our institutional moonbuggy knowledge — all the previous year’s participants had graduated!

I was a junior in 1995, when the race moved to the late April/early May timeframe. We were still racing on the original course here on Redstone Arsenal, on the very site where NASA tested the original lunar rovers in the 1960s. We finished in second place that year.

NASA avionics engineer Mike Selby, seen here with an original lunar rover, is
head scorekeeper for NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race. And he’s psyched to see
what 2009 competitors bring to the course. (MSFC/Doug Stoffer)

In 1996, I was completing a very tough senior design project and I had a serious case of senioritis, so I really pulled back, tried to minimize my involvement. Then, the last week of classes, literally on Thursday night before the moonbuggy race on Saturday, my engineering classmates and I had a pizza party, and I took leftover pizza out to the team, which was still working on the moonbuggy. I think I got there at around 8:30 p.m. — and I ended up staying to work on the moonbuggy until 3 a.m., then went back first thing the next morning and we worked around the clock, trying to get it ready for the race on Saturday. We didn’t think we were going to make it.

It was the first year NASA had held the race at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. On Saturday morning, the day the colleges and universities raced, there was a tornado warning that delayed the start. Everyone had to go inside, stay in the tornado shelter until they sounded the all-clear. If it weren’t for that delay, we never would have made it to the starting line in time!

As it turned out, we came in first place that year. But I don’t recommend waiting til the last minute like we did — boy, were we flying by the seat of our pants in those early years!

Mike graduated from UAH, and he joined the Marshall Center’s workforce that same summer. He became a moonbuggy race volunteer in 1997, and took on the head scorekeeper job in 2001. He’s been monitoring racers’ times ever since. Why?

I like the idea of helping to recruit bright, new minds to come work at NASA. I think the race is incredibly inspirational in that way. Whatever you choose to do with the experience beyond high school and college, it’s a great opportunity, and great fun. It keeps me young.

Leipzig to Huntsville: Anne Geyer's Travel Blog

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Anne Geyer is a member of the German moonbuggy team. As I write this, she and her fellow racers from the German Space Education Institute are already in Huntsville. They’re doing some pre-race sightseeing — and engaging in some friendly competition with teams from the Huntsville Center for Technology, the Madison County Career Technical Center and fellow early arrivals from the Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, India!

Here’s Anne’s reminiscences on her trip across the pond (with thanks to translator and fellow team member Thommy Knabe).

The long journey (March 26-27, 2009)

After packing hours it is at last so far. The Moonbuggy is disassembled, labeled and packed into 12 suitcases. Relief, because it became once again late. However, an important component of our Moonbuggy is still missing. The cable harness for the telemetry must still be soldered. Interested I look over Thorsten’s  shoulder, nevertheless in fact I can help him unfortunately not. And so it comes that Lisa and I are ready by 1 o’clock with our work and can still sleep for a few hours. While Ralf and Thorsten go on tirelessly and make the last preparations.

However already 3:30 o’clock we have to get up. In the kitchen Yvonne waits for us. She regret that she isn’t able to come with us, because she disassembling a children. Quickly we put on the team T-shirts. Then everything happens very quickly. The suitcases are gotten, a last once weighed and loaded onto the trailer. Also our hand luggage enriches with that or other part. We starts 4:15 o’clock with a little delay. Our first destination is Frankfurt. However, already on the first meters the convoy is stopped. Thorsten, Fabian and Christian get into a routine traffic control. Much more I don’t realize from the journey, because the short night requires their toll and I fall into a deep sleep.

Arrived in Frankfurt we have to wait again. Another two and a half hours up to the takeoff. Fabian, Ralf and Thorsten drive the cars and the trailer to a parking place and nevertheless the rest fits onto the baggage. Another one hour up to the takeoff. Impatience spreads. Why do they not return?  Now they come running through the check in hall. The time is urgent. And that also the nice ladies at the baggage tasks mean. Everyone gives up two suitcases and sorts his hand luggage. And already it goes on for the security controls. Putting aside everything with metal and getting laptops out of their bags. After nevertheless Fabian had to subject itself to another more precise search, the Boarding can begin. 11:25 o’clock everyone sit on his seat facilitated. Next stop Cincinnati.

In the airplane it’s again time to relax. We read, write travel blogs and make Rubber bear- Gang-Partys celebrated. They all can’t Sleep in fact. On the one hand because the excitement and tension onto the imminent time is too large and on the other hand because nevertheless it is not very comfortable to sleep in the airplane. We land after 10 quite uneventful hours 16:40 local time in Cincinnati. And here the whole airport hubbub begins again. Entry control with fingerprint and photo, security gates, baggage fetch, baggage check in and wait again.

After we have eat something we mount 20:00 the very small airplane to Huntsville Alabama to the final destination of our journey. The one hour flight goes by quickly. Already we can recognize the Rockets of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center from the air.

In the airport hall, Mr. Turner the director of the Huntsville Center for Technology already waits for us. He organized the transportation of the suitcases to his school in which we can build up the buggy again. Monday at 8 o’clock we start. We only take the personal things with us to the motel.

The evening fades away with a dinner in Arbys and the happy feeling of being in Huntsville again — this city that formerly was magnet for young constructing engineers and becomes magnet again today through the new space programs. In any case I am very happy to be here and maybe to start my career in the industry of the space exploration here. Tightened onto the next day I close my day report at 23:50.

At home it is now 6 o’clock in the morning. A long day ends.

Discovering Huntsville (March 28, 2009)

Getting up at 8 o’clock. It is easier than I thought after that relative long night. Today we have no time pressure so I can have a longer shower and prepare myself for the day. The breakfast turns out to be a little bit strange for European tastes. We have cornflakes with 0.3% milk and bagels without anything.

Around  9 o’clock all are ready and we can set off after a group photo in front of our motel. Ralf shows us the city and tells us a lot about the changes in the last years here have carried out. Huntsville is a typical south states city. With the beginning of the space and rocket time houses and industry settled around the old town center.

The first stop of the day is on the rainbow mountain west from Huntsville. Here we visit the Headricks Ralf knows already since his first visit in the USA. Although it’s still relatively early, we are received extremely hospitably and feel well immediately. The conversation goes up to the extraordinary hobbies of the Headricks to our Moonbuggy about Huntsville’s space history and the anecdote of the first meeting with Ralf and Yvonne. Both drive motorcycle passionately with pleasure and own three BMW motorcycles that show it to us fully pride. Very amazing is also, that they made the lead glass windows in their house self. Similarly also the home cinema of the Headricks inspires us. An own room with comfortable armchairs and multimedia equipment.  At least we are invited spontaneously to the dinner food with subsequent film for Wednesday, something we very delighted and thank accept.

Again in the car we continued our sightseeing tour. Ralf shows us a new shopping center in that we us to decide to eat. That is the bridge street town with exclusive businesses and artificial lakes. Then it goes on through the old town to the Mount Monte Sano. The mountain was settled in the 60s by German members of the von Braun team. Today still descendants of this engineers live there. So drive also to the house of Prof. Dr. von Puttkamer. Ralf can’t tell fast enough, he knows so many anecdotes and histories above this mountain.

Suddenly we stop at one small house. Walter Jacobi stands at the name plate. He is one of the last still living engineers of the Paperclip program. Without knowing whether he has time for us, Ralf rings. Spontaneously we are invited to a coffee. We sit down on the veranda and have many questions. Mr. Jacobi tells us about his work in Huntsville and about events from his life.  It’s insanely thrillingly and interestingly to listen to somebody, who formed the beginnings of the space exploration with. But it makes me simultaneous sadly, however, that there are less and less people who can tells us and that the entire knowledge and the experience of this old generation for future generations goes lost. However this that makes this conversation very unique and moving does, because who can say from himself to have talked to one of the founders of the present space exploration.

After the cordial discharge we keep on going to the Tennessee River. Hardly there arrived it starts promptly raining and a short thunderstorm moves over the country. However, after short waiting the sky clears up again and the sun shines. We get out and walk onto the shore. The air feels cleanly and smells of rain wonderfully. Because it is already relatively late we can gaze a wonderful sunset. After many photos it goes on to the supermarket in order to enlarge the offer of our breakfast. After that we still go into a small restaurant named Humphreys , where we make the evening finish and wait until Thommy arrives.

More to come from the German team and others, including some great photos and some pre-race thoughts from Anne’s teammate Thommy. If you’d like to drop the German team a line, they’re always thrilled to talk GMBR and space education: moonbuggy@spacepass.de.

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

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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

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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!

School Pride the HCT Way

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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?

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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

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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?

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