The NASA Moon Buggy Team from the University of Utah (also a Mechanical Engineering Senior Design Team) placed 3rd in the 2011 NASA Great Moon Buggy Race. The U of U team competed against college teams from 22 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, India, and Russia.

The NASA competition challenges students to build a durable, but lightweight, buggy that is human-powered and can travel over a simulated lunar terrain course. The vehicle must also be able to fold up into a 4′ x 4′ cube to simulate transporting the buggy on a rocket with little room to spare.

The U of U team traveled to Huntsville, Alabama, where the competition was held at the beginning of April. The team did exceptionally well the previous year, placing 2nd in the college division, and the 2011 team was looking for high marks.

The winning teams are the teams that achieve the fastest vehicle assembly time, combined with the fastest race time in their division, and receive the fewest penalties.

The first place team in the college division was the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao. Their team clocked in with a final time of 4 minutes and 18 seconds. The U of U finished an entire minute before the winning team and can also can assemble its moon buggy in 10 seconds or less.

“We actually had the fastest time by a long shot,” says U of U team leader CJ Sudbury, “But we placed third because we got a penalty for not having fenders on our vehicle.”

The team is proud of their victory, despite the penalty. “We should have been more careful to make sure we had all of the requirements,” reported Sudbury, “but we are really proud of how things turned out. This is the second year in a row that the University of Utah team has placed in the top three, and that is definitely something to be proud of.”

For more information, pictures, and race footage from The Great Moon Buggy Race, see the NASA website below: