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Sun, Apr 06, 2008

NASA Names Erie HS Students Winners Of Great Moonbuggy Race

Takes Prize From Returning Champions From Huntsville

Students from Erie High School in Erie, KS are over the moon today... literally. Students on Erie High Team II braved pouring rain and fierce competition from around the world to win the high school division of NASA's 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL.

Finishing the simulated lunar race course with the fastest time -- 3 minutes and 17 seconds -- the winning team's original moonbuggy design overcame 21 other high school teams from across the United States and as far away as Germany.

Among those toppled by the Erie team were the 2007 high school moonbuggy champions of Huntsville Institute of Technology, which fielded two teams this year. Huntsville Institute Team II finished in second place this year; Team I took third place.

NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race is inspired by the original lunar rover designed by engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. A hardy, lightweight exploration vehicle, the first rover trundled across the moon's surface during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, and continued to chart new lunar territory during two subsequent Apollo lunar missions.

Student racers face similar challenges. Last October, teams began designing their own rovers, capable of withstanding the half-mile course
-- a complex field of craters, gullies and ridges made of plywood and tires and covered with a realistic layer of gravel and sand. Each lunar rover must have two drivers -- a male and a female.

The Marshall Center presented the first-place team with a trophy depicting NASA's original lunar rover, and gave plaques and certificates to the two runners-up. The first-place team also received a one-week trip to the advanced Space Camp program at the Space & Rocket Center, courtesy of ATK Launch Systems and Jacobs Technology. Individuals on all three winning teams received commemorative medals and cash prizes from ATK Launch Systems.

Marshall engineers awarded two "Best Design" awards to high school teams that excelled at solving the engineering problems associated with traversing the lunar surface. Erie High School Team I took home the top design award; Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, La., was awarded second place for best design. Scotlandville took home a second award of the day for "Best Spirit."

A special "Pits Crew Award" for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming race-day challenges was won by the only home-schooled race team in the
2008 competition, Niles Homeschool Hub in Niles, MI. Alexandria High School in Alexandria, AL, was awarded "Most Unique Buggy" in the high school division. NASA's "Safety Systems Award" for best safeguarding buggy drivers was presented to the German Space Education Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

The team from Puerto Rico High School in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, which endured a buggy-toppling crash early in the day, continued unfazed and earned the "Rookie Award" for posting the fastest time among competition newcomers. The "Most Improved" award went to Lima Senior High School Team II, one of two returning teams from the Lima, Ohio, school.

"The enthusiasm and engineering savvy of these young innovators is terrific to see," said Tammy Rowan, manager of the Marshall Center's Academic Affairs Office, which organizes the race each year. "NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race is a great example of the educational projects and initiatives NASA undertakes each year to inspire a new generation of scientists, engineers and explorers, who will carry on the nation's mission of exploration, to the moon and onward into the solar system."

Twenty-nine college and university teams are expected to race Saturday, April 5, in the college division of NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race.



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