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Riverside Christian Academy’s middle and high school science teachers, Kaycee Valcourt and Memorie Stultz, led a group of high school students to compete in NASA’s 20th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race.
The Great Moonbuggy Race is an international competition that hosts over 100 teams each year. The race was held at the United States Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
NASA developed the Great Moonbuggy Race in the early 1990s. Since then, the competition has grown to have separate high school and college divisions from high schools and universities around the world. NASA developed the competition to encourage students to study math, science, engineering and technology.
Students build their moonbuggys from bicycle tires, aluminum and any other materials available to them. Each team must design its own steering and breaking systems, which often times requires extensive amounts of research. The Great Moonbuggy Race gives teachers a chance to help their students learn in a hands-on environment because the students have to take what they learn in the classroom, at the drafting table and in the machine shop and apply it to build a working, competitive moonbuggy.
The racecourse is created with obstacles that would be common on the moon. The moonbuggys have to be able to make it over hills and through ditches. Points are deducted if a team’s buggy crashes or if riders have to get off the buggy and push it. NASA, along with the event’s other sponsors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Aerojet, provide prizes in a dozen different categories that range from creativity to safety.
“This was our first year to participate in the Great Moonbuggy Race,” said Valcourt. “It was a great experience for the students. I was fortunate enough to meet MTSU’s Associate Dean of Mechanical Engineering at the event, and he offered to help us prepare for next year’s competition.
“A veteran competitor also gave me a copy of a moonbuggy building manuscript for beginners; it is a step-by-step guide on the process of building a winning moonbuggy!”
RCA’s science teachers plan on incorporating the Great Moonbuggy Race into its high school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) curriculum for the 2013-2014 school year. STEM classes will be offered as a part of the I-Opp (Individualized Opportunity) program. The I-Opp program will allow students to take elective classes in subject areas like STEM, Multimedia Presentations, HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) and Jr. Achievement for a 90-minute class period each week.