CARBONDALE — A yearlong project for SIU engineering students will be put to the test this weekend in Huntsville, Ala., the site of the 19th annual Great Moonbuggy Race at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Nine students depart SIU today with Professor Tsuchin Philip Chu of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Energy Processes with their recently built, human-propelled moonbuggy.
“We built the moonbuggy and will be in the time trial runs on Friday and Saturday. This competition is in honor of the original moonbuggy,” said Katie Damron-Stokes, an SIU moonbuggy veteran participating in her second competition.
The competition Damron-Stokes speaks of is not for the faint-hearted.
Two students provide power by pedaling. The goal is to drive through a half-mile-long course that simulates rugged moon terrain.
In addition to maneuvering through the outdoor obstacle course at the fastest time possible, teams also amass points during the assembly stage. Factors such as the moonbuggy’s weight and overall design are also in play.
Drivers, for example, must be seated at least 15 inches off the ground. And the moonbuggy must be designed to fold and fit in a 4-foot cube, according to NASA, which sponsors the race.
Damron-Stokes is one of five seniors on the team. She and senior Kaleb Hartman will pedal the 7 1/2-foot long vehicle, which weighs about 170 pounds, Friday.
Drivers for Saturday’s competition have not been selected yet, Damron-Stokes said.
This year’s SIU moonbuggy will have a video camera and a few other computer and electronic components designed by SIU senior team member Lisa Dohn.
In 2010, the SIU moonbuggy team placed sixth in a 30-team competition. In 2011, the team placed ninth. There will be 40 teams, including some from other countries, in this year’s competition.
The remaining SIU moonbuggy team members are Jonathan Beaven, Daniel Rogers, Caleb McGee, Nick Sager, Ryan Schmidt and Laura Bickers.