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NASA Moonbuggy Competition

The NASA Moonbuggy Race is a competition in which a team builds a 2-person, human-powered vehicle to traverse a terrain similar to that of the Moon. My role as Captain was to establish a basic design, delegate design tasks, develop a comprehensive 3D model, and manage buggy fabrication. Because of my team’s inexperience with the competition, we started the engineering process with many unknowns. In many ways, this was a positive point because we were able to develop innovative design strategies. 

Importance of the Work
The lessons learned in collegiate design competitions such as NASA Moonbuggy are invaluable to one's career in engineering. Participating in this competition not only honed in many of my engineering skills but gave my colleagues an opportunity to develop their skills as well.

Tasks Completed
The first picture below is an image of the complex, fully articulating 3D model I developed in Pro Engineer. I took a design approach new to the Moonbuggy Competition by designing the 3D model of the buggy around a 3D model of a 95th percentile male. We also introduced novel dust-abatement devices and ergonomic elements into our design. Because of the thoroughness and innovation in our design process, my team won both Best Design and Innovation awards, despite competing against many veteran teams.

Skills Gained
Because I managed the design and delegating build tasks, I have become very proficient at maintaining project vision and planning project work. These project management skills will be an asset in my future research because research requires organization. Also, my aptitude for thoroughness and innovation are characteristics needed in research and will enable me to contribute unique ideas to my research field.

Lessons Learned
As hard as it is to admit, I think we learn more from our failures than our successes. Although we won many awards for our moonbuggy design, we didn't have time to test our buggy before competition and therefore didn't do well in the actual race.  Looking back, I should have delegated the drive train (the system that transfers the force of the rider's feet to the forward motion of the wheels) to another team member so that it could have undergone more intense design scrutiny. Ultimately, many components of the drive train failed, but I learned personally the importance of testing and delegation of critical systems.

Impact of Work
The NASA Moonbuggy Race give colleges the opportunity to build real-life mechanisms and also serves as a great opportunity for outreach and international collaboration.

(Left) Fully Articulating 3D model designed around 95th percentile male
(Right) Final Buggy built to the design

The competition requires the buggy to fold into a 4-foot cube.

(Left) Actual folded buggy at the competition site.      (Right) Simulation of Folded Buggy 

Working on the Buggy in the shop (that's me on the right)

This is my team showing off our Awards: Best Design, Innovation, and Safety Awards.