MURFREESBORO — The 14-member MTSU moon buggy team wanted to capture first place in the recent NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, previously known as the Great Moonbuggy Race, held recently in Huntsville, Ala.
What they brought home — the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award bestowed by judges on the MTSU Team 2 entry nicknamed “The Beast” — may have made a more profound impact on the team at the event.
The event challenges high school, college and university students to design, construct, test and race lightweight, human-powered rovers capable of performing in the demanding environments to be explored by future voyagers.
University President Sidney A. McPhee sent his congratulations to the entire team, saying, “I am proud of this remarkable accomplishment.”
Team captain Ryan Miller, a senior electro-mechanical engineering major from Chattanooga, Tenn., led the design effort, which began in the summer of 2013.
“I’m very pleased we got the best design award,” Miller said. “Only one team (in the university division) receives the design award. That made me very happy.”
The award, which was presented during the awards’ ceremony, is “for outstanding achievement in the design of a human powered exploration rover and contributions toward the next steps in human exploration of the solar system.”
It is named in honor of the late Armstrong, an American astronaut and first person to walk on the moon in 1969 during the Apollo 11 space voyage.
Professor Saeed Foroudastan, who oversees the MTSU Experimental Vehicles Program and serves as a mentor, said it was a well-deserved honor for such a dedicated, hard-working team.
After a third-place showing in the 2013 race, two MTSU teams placed fifth and 12th overall this year.
MTSU Team 2 finished with an overall best time of 5 minutes, 6 seconds in the two-day rover challenge competition. The University of Puerto Rico Humacao Team 2 finished first in 4:09.
MTSU Team 1, with the modified 2013 entry nicknamed “The Model T,” fashioned a time of 10:25, which included penalties.
“I’m proud of the team,” Miller said. “We had a lot more team spirit and camaraderie.”
Forty-six teams competed in the college and university division.
The competition is designed to teach students to solve practical design and engineering problems and demonstrates NASA's continuing commitment to inspire new generations of scientists, engineers, technicians and astronauts.
In addition to Miller, team members include co-captain Dustin Taylor of Murfreesboro and formerly from Baton Rouge, La.; Team 2 drivers Devin Raines of Murfreesboro and Josh Calvin of Nashville; Team 1 drivers Jasmine Johnson of Humboldt, Tenn., and Zack Hill of Hendersonville, Tenn.; senior Thomas Cox of Nashville; juniors Beau Hallavant of Bell Buckle, Tenn., Steven Chaput of Manchester, Tenn., Les McGuffey of Nashville and Thomas McKinney of Franklin, Tenn.; freshman Alec Urban of Murfreesboro and formerly from Richmond, Va.; and graduate students Jeremy Posey of Adairville, Ky., and Dianna Prince of Estill Springs, Tenn.