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Gadsden SEMAA students to participate in moon buggy competition

Six Gadsden High School students participating in a New Mexico State University program will brave the unknown challenges and rocky terrain of the moon as they participate in the 14th Annual Great Moon Buggy Race.

Victoria Romo, a freshman at Gadsden High School, takes her moon buggy out for a spin while teacher Maggie Romero, left, supervises the event. Romo and several other students designed and built the buggy as part of a New Mexico State University program and will enter it in an international science competition. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Members of the Southern New Mexico Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy (SNM SEMAA) club at Gadsden High School will pit their moon buggy against buggies created by student groups from across the country April 13-14 in Huntsville, Ala.

SNM SEMAA is a collaboration of NASA, the New Mexico State University colleges of Education and Engineering, the Gadsden Independent School District, Las Cruces Public Schools, parents and volunteers. There has been a SEMAA club at Gadsden High School for four years.

After presenting a microgravity tower at the X-Prize Cup Education Day last year, a representative from an advanced technology company informed the SEMAA club of the moon buggy race.

"The students were the ones that decided they wanted to do this," said Laura Lomas, assistant director of SNM SEMAA. "They wanted something bigger and better. They are not intimidated by the task and they are ready to compete."

The race, sponsored by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, will take place at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Each human powered buggy must carry two students, one male and one female, across a half-mile simulated lunar terrain course including "craters," "lava" ridges and "lunar" soil.

The unassembled pieces of the buggy must fit inside a four-foot-by-four-foot square container and the unassembled buggy must be carried to the starting line by the student drivers. The design of each buggy also must address a variety of engineering problems similar to those faced by the original moon buggy team. The focus will be on the concept of the vehicles rather than the final production models. The students must present a 10-page paper describing the team, the vehicle and how they built it to judges at the competition.

"I'm learning new things," said Victoria Romo, a freshman at Gadsden High School. "I want to go to college and I think this is going to help me a lot."

"We wanted to try something new," said Daniel Acevedo, a junior at Gadsden High School. "Some of us are helping with the welding; the students who are speaking are working on their writing skills."

Each team will get two runs in the terrain course and the shortest event time will be added to the assembly time for the final total event time. The six registered team members and faculty/instructor advisor for the top three winning teams in both the high school and college divisions will be awarded prizes. Additional awards include the Rookie Award, System Safety Award and awards for Most Unique and Most Improved.

The design competition award will be given to the team whose moon buggy design "represents the best technical approach toward solving the engineering problem of navigating on a lunar surface."

For more information call (505) 646-2991.