By Emily Sullivan ′13
Hometown: Cape Girardeau, MO
Majors: Physics and Mathematics
After only one year at Rhodes, Lars Monia was given the keys to the moonbuggy, so to speak. The Great Moonbuggy Race is a NASA project for high school and college students who build simulated lunar rovers. It’s a challenge, says NASA, “to inspire them in engineering and explore engineering opportunities and possibilities.”
Monia was asked to recruit other students and put together a team to manage, and was given a prospective budget by Physics Prof. Brent Hoffmeister. “Hosting a team for the first time was pretty challenging,” says Monia. “I had to teach everyone how to do the engineering programs and how the design process works and what the project even was—‘what in the world is a moonbuggy?’”
He appreciates the help he received from Glen Davis, the manager of the Physics shop, saying, “There is no way we would have gotten this done without him.” The team was named Rookie of the Year in the 2012 Great Moonbuggy Race.
Monia, who has known he wanted to be an engineer since the fourth grade, came to Rhodes with a two-year drafting certificate acquired while in high school in Cape Girardeau, MO. He also came with the idea of entering a dual-degree program in engineering with Washington University, though he’s reconsidered and is now looking at an opportunity with the U.S. Navy in its nuclear submarine officer program, with graduate school to follow. (Editor’s note: In April, Monia interviewed with Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C., and is now an officer candidate in the NUPOC [Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate] program.)
He works very closely with Hoffmeister and Michael Sheard, professor of mathematics and computer science, who, he says, “has faith in me.” Both men have given him the opportunity and room to run with his ideas and have become role models for his ultimate goal.
In addition to being an engineer, Monia says, “My real dream is to be a professor. I’ve always wanted to teach and that’s the aspect I take on with anything I do. If I’m going to lead a project, I like to teach other people how to do it and teach the team how to work together . . . I have more fun teaching than doing anything else.”
With a prospective double major in physics and math, he’s jumped into his college academics with classes in physics and calculus. As a future teacher, however, he sees the value in a well-rounded education from Rhodes and has taken piano, with plans to take art classes later on.
“I like to create,” Monia says. “I like to play music and do art and build moonbuggies, but at the end of the day I’d rather teach somebody else how to do the same things.”