By NASA, Special for USDR
Ready for a race? Nearly 100 high school and college teams from across the globe will put their skills to the test March 30 to April 1 during NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Participating teams come from all over the world including 23 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and several different countries, such as Brazil, Germany, India and Mexico.
The challenge highlights NASA’s goals for future exploration to Mars and beyond. Inspired by the lunar roving vehicles of the Apollo moon missions, the competition challenges students to solve engineering problems, while emphasizing NASA’s commitment to inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and explorers. Rover Challenge is hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and is managed by Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office.
Student teams are required to design, build, test and race human-powered rovers, driven by one male and one female team member. The nearly three-quarter-mile course boasts 17 grueling obstacles that simulate terrain found on Mars, as well as other planets, moons and asteroids throughout the solar system.
Teams race to finish the course with the fastest times to win prizes in several competitive divisions. The event concludes with an awards ceremony, where corporate sponsors will present awards for best design, rookie team and other accomplishments.
“The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge team and its innovative partners are extremely excited to host this engineering design competition,” said Diedra Williams, acting manager of Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office. “The Rover Challenge allows for young talent to work together to solve complex engineering problems that include design, construction and testing. It is great fun – but also reflects the real-world complexity of problem solving with practical, hands-on experience. We look forward to seeing the enthusiasm and inventive ideas they bring to the competition.”
This year’s race has a new optional feature called the “Drive Train Technology Challenge.” Teams can develop reliable systems such as belts, drive shafts or direct drives to replace commonly used chains. Cash awards will be given for best overall performance.
Major corporate sponsors include the Boeing Co.; Lockheed Martin Corp.; Jacobs Engineering; Aerojet Rocketdyne; and Northrop Grumman Corp., all with operations in Huntsville.
Other contributors include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Greater Huntsville Section; the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the System Safety Society; Science Applications International Corp. of Huntsville; Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia; Davidson Technologies of Huntsville; Corporate Office Properties Trust, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland; the National Space Club of Huntsville; Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville; Aetos Systems of Huntsville; the University of Alabama in Huntsville; AI Signal Research Inc. of Huntsville; the U.S. Space & Rocket Center; Redstone Federal Credit Union of Huntsville; the City of Huntsville; United Research Services of San Francisco; Kids in Space of Huntsville; Cyient of Huntsville; International System Safety Society, Tennessee Valley Chapter; Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau; Currie Systems of Huntsville; McDonald Scales Inc. of Huntsville; and the National Defense Industrial Association, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.
Teams will arrive in Huntsville on March 30 for on-site registration, with the race taking place 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT both Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1. NASA will provide real-time updates on Ustream and the Rover Challenge Twitter account.