From the Washoe County School District:
A student engineering team from the Academy of Arts, Careers & Technology (AACT) has won the first NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, beating dozens of other high school teams from 19 states, Puerto Rico, Germany, India, Mexico, and Russia. The students from AACT designed and built a rover that addresses potential engineering challenges that could be encountered during exploration of other planets for the competition, which was sponsored by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, where the competition was held.
The AACT team also won the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award for the "best technical approach to solve the engineering problems of navigating the extraterrestrial terrain" on the more than half-mile course of rock, gravel, sand, and other materials that simulate formations found on other planets. The students' work could help shape NASA's own development of rovers and other space transportation systems for future exploration missions across the solar system.
"AACT's achievement is a tribute to the strength of the school's engineering program, representing both their technical and academic knowledge and skills," said Dr. Dana Ryan, director of WCSD Signature Academies & Career and Technical Education (CTE). "It also highlights the collaborative efforts of the school, relying not only on design and fabrication skills, but also on marketing, communication, medicine, physics, and technical writing. These students can truly say they are ‘the best in the world!'"
"I couldn't be more proud of the way our students responded to the challenge NASA created for them," said Addison Wilhite, an instructor at AACT who acted as an advisor for the project. "As a teacher, I have always found my work extraordinarily rewarding. But the last two years working at AACT have underscored all the things that public education can achieve with motivated students, passionate educators, and administrators who support and trust the expertise and professionalism of the faculty."
During the competition, students were required to assemble their rovers, then race them on the course with the fewest on-course penalties. The AACT team's winning time was three minutes, 37 seconds. Second place finishers were Vocational High School Teodoro Aguilar Mora from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Third-place honors went to the team from International Space Education Institute in Moscow, Russia. Also competing from northern Nevada was a team from Virginia City High School, who captured a ninth-place finish.
The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge challenges students to design, build, and race lightweight, human-powered roving vehicles while solving technical problems along the way, just as NASA engineers must do. In previous competitions—most notably the NASA Great Moonbuggy Race—AACT students have achieved three top 10 finishes and won the Rookie, Featherweight, and Neil Armstrong Best Design awards.
"It's such a pleasure to work with these students during the many hours they dedicate to their project outside of class," said Dan Ruby, associate director of the Fleischmann Planetarium at the University of Nevada, Reno. "These are the bright young scientists and engineers of the future, and we so enjoy watching them hone their skills and contribute to the development of technology that will serve future space exploration."
AACT staff and students work in partnership with the staff at Fleischmann Planetarium, Nevada Space Grant Consortium, Truckee Meadows Community College, and the Washoe County School District. The project is sponsored by the Reno Bike Project, SamCo Fabrications, Abaris Training, College Cyclery and ProtoFAB. Faculty advisors at AACT include Jim Cooney, Addison Wilhite, Greg Burge, Danielle Wayman, Travis Carr, and Franz Nenzel. UNR advisors are Dan Ruby and Casey Clark.
From the Washoe County School District