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Fri, April 19

AZ high school among NASA rover challenge winners

Blue Ridge High School students of Lakeside, Arizona, working on their rover. These students received the High School Drive Train Technology Challenge award during the 25th annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama. (Photo courtesy Kevin Woolridge/Blue Ridge High School)

Blue Ridge High School students of Lakeside, Arizona, working on their rover. These students received the High School Drive Train Technology Challenge award during the 25th annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama. (Photo courtesy Kevin Woolridge/Blue Ridge High School)

List of Winners

High School Division

• First Place: International Space Education Institute (Leipzig, Germany), 91 points

• Second Place: Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights, Minnesota), 91 points

• Third Place: University Gardens High School (San Juan, Puerto Rico), 86 points

College/University Division

• First Place: University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez (Mayagüez, Puerto Rico), 101 points

• Second Place: Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, Rhode Island), 95 points

• Third Place: University of Puerto Rico Humacao - Team 2, (Humacao, Puerto Rico), 88 points

AIAA Neil Armstrong Best Design Award

• High School Division: Parish Episcopal School - Team 2 (Dallas, Texas)

• College/University Division: KIET Group of Institutions (Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India) Technology Challenge Award

• Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights, Minnesota) Drive Train Technology Challenge

• Blue Ridge High School (Pinetop, Arizona)

• University of Central Missouri - Team 1 (Warrensburg, Missouri)

Featherweight Award

• High School Division: Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights, Minnesota)

• College/University Division: Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, Rhode Island)

AIAA Telemetry/Electronics Award

• Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria (Peru)

Crash and Burn Award

• Mt. Juliet High School - Team 1 (Mt. Juliet, Tennessee) Frank Joe Sexton Memorial Pit Crew Award

• High School Division: Bearden High School (Knoxville, Tennessee)

• College/University Division: Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering (Vile Parle, Mumbai, India)

Team Spirit Award

• Parish Episcopal School - Team 1 (Dallas, Texas) Rookie of the Year Award

• Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights, Minnesota) Jesco von Puttkamer International Team Award

• High School Division: International Space Education Institute (Leipzig, Germany)*

*ISEI donated their award to team Centro de Tecnologia Em Educação (Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

• College/University Division: Technólogico de Monterrey (Mexico)

AIAA Best Report Award

• High School Division: Parish Episcopal School – Team 2 (Dallas, Texas)

• College/University Division: University of Memphis (Tennessee)

System Safety Challenge Award

• High School Division: International Space Education Institute (Leipzig, Germany)

• College/University Division: Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering (Vile Parle, Mumbai, India)

Most Improved Award

• High School Division: International Space Education Institute (Leipzig, Germany)

• College/University Division: Owensboro Community and Technical College - Team 1 (Owensboro, Kentucky)

STEM Engagement Award

• High School Division: Saint Thomas Academy (Mendota Heights, Minnesota)

• College/University Division: Lovely Professional University (Phagwara, Punjab, India)

Legacy Award

• University of Alabama in Huntsville

• University of Puerto Rico Humacao

LAKESIDE – To come out a national winner in the first year of competition is pretty good. To receive that same award on an international level is even better.

Out of nearly 100 teams from 23 different states and several countries, one Arizona high school has taken home top honors from NASA this past weekend.

Blue Ridge High School from Pinetop has taken home a top award for drive train technology at the 2019 Human Exploration Rover Challenge held in Huntsville, Alabama. This was the 25th annual Rover Challenge and was held April 12-13, and hosted by the Marshall Space Flight Center.

This was Blue Ridge’s first year competing.

“It’s a great honor and a good demonstration of the Fab Lab, which is in partnership with the University of Arizona,” said Dr. Michael L. Wright, Blue Ridge School District superintendent. “It’s a great representation of what young kids can do if they are properly supported and have the right tools and direction.”

The Blue Ridge High School Physics and Engineering class and club team competed against other high school teams at the competition in the Drive Train Technology Challenge and came away from it as the challenge award winner. The rover was designed and built at the Blue Ridge-University of Arizona, 4-H Fab Lab – a digital fabrication lab and the first of its kind at a public high school in Arizona.

Kevin Woolridge, Blue Ridge teacher and team sponsor, said that the team built its rover and its wheels and tires with recycled fitness equipment from the high school’s weight room and donated materials. All total, the only money the team put into it was about $200.

NASA described the drive train challenge as optional, but highly encouraged.

“Over time, we anticipate that the drive train on exploration rovers will consist of reliable systems such as belts, drive shafts or direct drives, replacing chains that are currently often employed,” read the challenge’s guidelines.

Students had to produce a written report that described the design of the rover drive train and also give an oral presentation on the design.

“During the student interview, the judging panel which consisted of NASA engineers praised the students for their concepts and designs stating that they were doing university level engineering design and fabrication and that their designs far and away exceeded most of the university level submissions,” Woolridge said. “When NASA engineers who were talking to the kids start talking about using the technology they created on the next rover in 2025, that is pretty amazing.”

Woolridge added that the team fully intends to return next year and hopes to bring along two teams, instead of just one.

“Before the competition was over, the kids were already saying they want to go again next year,” Woolridge said. “They have a lot of work to do for next year, but I was pretty proud of the work the kids did.”

The team consisted of 14 students, 11 of them made the trip to Huntsville, and all of the students will be back again next year.

“Special thanks go out to our sponsors RAMPF-Group for their donation of the Polyurethane used to make the tires, White Mountain Steel for their donation of materials and Red Line for donating parts and supplies,” Woolridge said.

During the competition the students interacted with NASA scientists and university engineering professors who stopped by the Blue Ridge build area to ask questions about their rover, wheel and drive train design.

“It was truly a great learning experience for our students,” Woolridge said. “There were university and high school teams from all over the world. The team next to us was from Morocco.”

Students Eli Woolridge, Joe Woolridge, Braden Brimhall and Dallin Wahlin, all 9th graders, said it was an amazing experience.

“It feels really awesome,” Braden said of winning the award. “We worked so hard, for so long. We weren’t expecting to win an award, so it’s just really amazing.”

Eli said his favorite part was meeting people from all over the world. They had a Moroccan team on one side, a team from the Dominican Republic, and they met people from Italy and India.

“We’ve already made a bunch of plans and we hope to start on them now or at the end of summer,” Dallin said.

Joe said it is really something cool to win this award and to be able to put it on their resumes. He also added that NASA food was really good, especially their gummy worms.

Chaperone and Blue Ridge alumna CJ Rigg said it was incredible to see the team win for the way that they think.

“It’s not about the right answer or how high we can jump,” Rigg said. “They are being acknowledged and awarded for their hardwork and thought process.

“If they could do this now, I know that if they put their minds to it they can do anything.”

The competition, held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, challenges high school and college teams to design, build and test human-powered roving vehicles inspired by the Apollo lunar missions and future exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. This year’s competition marked 25 years since the inaugural event, a milestone that coincided with NASA’s Apollo 50th anniversary.

The International Space Education Institute of Leipzig, Germany, won first place overall in the high school division with 91 points. Teams were awarded points based on the successful navigation of obstacles and completion of tasks.

Nearly 100 teams took part in the competition, hailing from 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as a record number of countries, including Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco and Peru.

“The biggest thing is that it doesn’t matter where the kids come from, all kids have the ability to achieve great things,” Woolridge said. “When given the opportunity, you can see great things happen. They just need the resources to do it. We just need to give them a level playing field to do that.”

by NASA Rover Challenge

by NASA Rover Challenge

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