GREENFIELD — During the weekend, six Greenfield-Central High School students were in Alabama for a unique opportunity to race a moon buggy.
The students participated in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, in Huntsville, Alabama, an engineering contest that challenges participants to design and build their own lunar rover replica, one that can traverse simulated conditions of the moon.
Greenfield-Central competed against high schools and colleges across the country and world. In the high school division, one of Greenfield’s teams placed second, while the other placed fifth, out of 31 schools.
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The students spent five days in Alabama and returned to school Monday.
On Monday afternoon, Indiana first lady Karen Pence visited the students to celebrate their accomplishments and learn more about the program.
Greenfield-Central was the only Indiana high school to participate in the challenge; Purdue Calumet and Trine University also had teams in the challenge.
The contest, conducted at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, focused on designing, constructing and testing mobility devices for space environments.
Two students powered each rover as they traversed through a course with obstacles similar to what rovers in space would encounter, including a 6-foot incline, craters and boulders.
In the university division, Greenfield-Central students placed fifth and 11th. Seventy-one schools participated.
On Monday, the students presented to Pence, showing her their buggy and a video of the competition.
Junior Miranda Shook, who has participated in the program for three years, said she enjoys the engineering aspect of the program leading up to the competition. Though the base of the rover can be the same from year to year, 50 percent of the students’ design and engineering work has to be new at each contest.
“I like designing something and seeing it come to life,” she said.
Shook hopes to pursue career in engineering, so the skills she’s learning now are preparing her for the future, she said.
Scott Kleine, one of the advisers of the program, said the students who participated worked hard all year, squeezing in time between school and jobs to work on their moon buggy.
The students each learned how to weld, drill and mill.
Pence, who had the opportunity to take a ride in the buggy Monday, said she was excited to see the rover built by students.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I think any time you can get people this age to really think about what their future is going to be, it’s a good thing. It keeps them in school; it keeps them interested.”