OSU student-made moonbuggy part of NASA competition
Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
A team of 10 Ohio State engineering students will race its homemade, human-powered vehicle at NASA's 17th annual Great
Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville, Ala. Friday and Saturday.
The competition consists of a 10-minute, two-day race through an obstacle course filled with craters, hills and basins, built to mimic lunar terrain. Not only does each student team have to build its own buggy, but they also have to follow strict rules during moonbuggy construction.
To name a few, the human-powered buggy has to fold into a 4-foot cube because the original NASA rover was transported to the moon in similar fashion. Also, each team must have one female and one male driver, and the buggy has to be light enough to be carried 20 feet by the two riders.
The majority of students on the OSU team are welding engineering majors who have been planning the design and funding process of the buggy since summer 2009.
Brian Hanhold, a fourth-year in welding engineering and the OSU buggy team leader, said it took about three months to actually build the "2-person bicycle on steroids" that is based on NASA's original lunar vehicle.
To start the process, the teammates first designed the buggy around the given constraints. Other inspiration rolled in from real-world vehicles such as ATVs and mountain bikes. Members of the team also researched other schools that have previously participated and shared hints on Web sites.
"We try to account for problems other teams have encountered so we don't make the same mistakes," said Brian Love, a team member and first-year in welding engineering. "It's a lot of research and a trial-and-error process."
At the beginning of the school year, the team brainstormed how to acquire sponsorships and funding to purchase parts for the rover, one of the most difficult parts of the process, Hanhold said. Ohio companies Miller Electric, Hobart Brothers Co. and Smith Equipment donated a combined $10,000 to the project this year.
"To get funding, we beg," Love said. "The welding companies that donated to us have been our biggest supporters."
Although this project has been a hands-on learning experience, many team members credit their engineering classes for their building success. However, Adam Truog, a fourth-year in welding engineering, acknowledged, "I'm sure our professors would yell at us for some of the welding-related decisions we've made."
Even if mistakes were made along the way, OSU engineering professor and faculty adviser for the team, Suresh Babu, said it's amazing to see students put what they've learned to use and accomplish something like this.
With the buggy almost finished and the competition around the corner, the team is ready to travel to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and race the rover.
"The biggest accomplishment so far has been getting to where we are now," Love said. "When you go into this and you see stuff from scratch, you're thinking, ‘How are we going to make something out of pipes?' But when you see everything put together, it's like, ‘Wow, let's see what it can do.'"
Whatever the outcome of the race may be for the team, the members said they will remember this experience and the lessons they learned.
"I love the camaraderie of being in the team environment and learning to apply engineering design and fabrication into a real vehicle that we can take pride in," Hanhold said. "I believe it's made me a better engineer and team partner."
The race will air live on the NASA Education Channel on Friday from 7:30 - 10:30 p.m.