Engineering students at Fairhope High School are building something out-of-this-world. It’s a moon buggy and it will be entered in a competition at NASA’s Marshall Space Center in Huntsville. The group of eleven students has been working on it since the beginning of the school year and it’s starting to take shape.

Fairhope High School moon buggy

This year's FHS moon buggy design has four custom wheels and pivots in the middle

What started as ideas and formulas on paper is now being constructed into a two-person lunar rover. Students from Fairhope High School’s Engineering 4 class have been working on this project since the first day of school. This year’s design aims to be the lightest entry yet from the school, which has been competing in this event for many years.

“The crazy thing is, it’s an international competition so having teams from different countries come to Huntsville, Alabama to compete in this and there’s only a few in Alabama that actually have the capabilities of doing this so it’s pretty awesome to be one of the few that’s part of the competition,” said engineering instructor, Cody Coleman.

High schools and colleges from around the world will be represented. There are only 50 of each in the competition and Fairhope is the only high school from south Alabama in it. This is an annual competition put on by NASA and there are a number of awards up for grabs. Seeing the fruits of their labor come together has the students excited.

“We actually got all four wheels on like two weeks ago so we’re really excited, seeing it come together finally after being a frame for so long,” said engineering student, Clayton Connick.

This year’s moon buggy is a four-wheel design. The tubular frame will support two operators sitting one behind the other. The buggy pivots in the center of the frame, allowing it to handle obstacles better. Those obstacles will include rough terrain, large boulders, sand and water.

“Probably the most important thing is the ability to get over obstacles and also being light enough to where if they were to send it to Mars, the most important thing is that it doesn’t weigh too much because the more something weighs, the more costly it is to get it there,” explained engineering student, Caleb Hart.

The lightest, fastest and most durable designs will compete for awards and even scholarships. Engineering instructor, Cody Coleman says his students look forward to doing this competition and improving on past-years’ designs.

“There’s a lot of schools that don’t even do anything like that so these kids are getting an excellent opportunity to be able to compete in something like that, the critical thinking skills that they learn,” Coleman said. “It’s just unbelievable to be able to have an experience like that.”

It’s called the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge and students will spend the next couple of months finishing up the moon buggy, getting it ready for the competition. It will be held in Huntsville the second week of April.

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