High schoolers compete in NASA contest

Marc Garneau Collegiate's moon buggy, manned by team-leader Peter Wen (photo by Hawii Gudeta)

Marc Garneau Collegiate’s moon buggy, manned by team-leader Peter Wen (photo by Hawwii Gudeta/Toronto Observer)

Marc Garneau Collegiate is the first high school in Canada to enter a moon buggy competition set up by NASA.

The 20th “NASA Great Moonbuggy Race” was held in Huntsville, Alabama at the Marshall Space Flight Centre April 25-28.

The moon buggy team consisted of six students and Garneau Collegiate is the only Canadian high school to ever enter the competition… appropriate, considering that the East York high school was named after Canada’s first astronaut.

“Team 1” from Teodoro Aguilar Mora Vocational High School of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, won first place in the contest’s high school division. But the contingent from Garneau still felt a sense of accomplishment.

“If it wasn’t for the team of students working 8-10 hours every day, this probably would not happen,” said Peter Wen, 18, the lead student on the moon buggy team.

The students worked in the auto shop at their school. With recent cutbacks in extracurricular activities and a minimum amount of funding, things were challenging.

“It started off as a student initiative,” Wen said. “I wrote Dr. Marc Garneau a letter and then he actually came down to our school to visit us at the end of March. He loved our work.”

The moon buggy team received funding from various sponsors after Garneau’s visit, and then they were able to get the sponsorship they needed to make the trip to the competition possible.

“I am really proud of the students,” said Robert Skara, a teacher in technological education at Marc Garneau. Skara teaches transportation technology and he and Luciano Saroli were the teachers helping the students with this project.

“It’s a great experience for them,” Skara said. “It’s the hands-on part that really teaches them. I can only teach so much on the chalkboard. It’s the hands-on design that demonstrates their skills.”

NASA set up a course for the competition that simulates moon terrain, including several obstacles. Students are expected to design a moon buggy that will be able to ride through the terrain without any issues.

“The students designed this moon buggy all by themselves,” Skara said. “The buggy is made from bicycle tires and all of the frame is made from round steel tubing. They had to custom design the seats and handles.”

About this article

By: Hawwii Gudeta
Posted: May 17 2013 4:28 pm
Filed under: Features