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Rhodes Students Compete in NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race

Publication Date: 4/13/2012

Lars Monia ’15 works in the physics workshop drilling holes into a part for the moonbuggy

This weekend, a team of Rhodes students will participate in NASA’s 19th Annual Great Moonbuggy Race, to be held April 13-14 in Huntsville, Alabama at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. In the competition, international teams on both the high school and college level race vehicles of their own design over a halfmile simulated lunar terrain course.

The Rhodes team consists of 11 students who have worked in various capacities on the project, including applying for a grant as well as designing, building, and driving the prototype. The team began their work in October, and last semester, met twice a week to first construct a 3D computer design of the buggy. This semester, they have been clocking in numerous hours in the Physics Department’s machine workshop every week in order to finish the buggy by the competition date.

Team manager Lars Monia ’15, who competed two years in the race on the high school level, first approached Physics Department Chair Brent Hoffmeister last semester with the idea to start a Rhodes team.

“What we have essentially done is cram two years’ worth of work into one,” Monia says. “We are trying to do a lot of things at once. Last week I put in 38 hours in the shop. With what we were given, we have done a really good job on this project.”

To prepare for the race and better understand how to construct their model, team members also spent time volunteering at Revolutions, a community bicycle shop in Memphis. Back in the workshop on campus, they were assisted by shop manager Glen Davis, without whom, Monia says, the project would not have been possible.

Monia says the team hopes to get a few test runs in before the actual competition to ensure that the buggy runs well, but that getting first place in the race is not his primary concern.

“Most of what we get out of this is about the creativity behind [the buggy] and how much we learn. We’ve been successful whether or not we even finish the course.”

 Rhodes’ moonbuggy, still under construction

(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Lucy Kellison ’13)

Update April 19, 2012

After a broken sprocket forced them to push the buggy in heat one, the Rhodes team came back in heat two with an amazing race completing the entire course in 7 minutes and 9 seconds. This outstanding performance earned the team the NASA Rookie of the Year Award and an overall placement of 9th out of 44 in the college division. Rhodes was the only liberal arts college in this year′s competition.

Rhodes team members include Brad Hensley ′12, Zain-Al-Abidin Kinnare ′15, Alec Lindman ′14, Joey McPherson ′14, Lars Monia ′15, Vince Viola ′15, Morgan Smathers ′14 and Mr. Glen Davis. The photo shows team drivers Lindman and Smathers just after crossing the finish line in their second race.


Founded in 1848, Rhodes College is a private, coeducational college of liberal arts and sciences. It aspires to graduate students with a lifelong passion for learning, a compassion for others, and the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and the world.

Tags: Campus Life, Events, Science, Service, Students


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