It is a race for the next generation scientists, engineers and explorers.

A team of five students, Z. Jeba John Thomas, G. Ashok Kumar, B. Madhumitha, B. Hanin, and Mohammed Hishan from Velammal Matriculation Higher Secondary School have designed and developed a four-wheeler “moon-buggy”, and participated in the Annual NASA Great Moon Buggy Race 2010 held at Huntsvilla, Alabama.

Velammal School is one among the two schools from India which qualified for the event. More than 1,000 students representing high school, college and university from 20 States and countries like India, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, Puerto Rico, Romania and Serbia participated. The other school from India is I.S. Dev Samaj School, Chandigarh. The event was held on April 9 and 10 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Centre.

NASA's “Great Moonbuggy Race” is one of many educational projects and initiatives the agency conducts each year to attract and engage the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers.

The event consists of a race in which the participants with their specially crafted, two-person buggies race against the clock through a challenging course of rugged, moon-like terrain. The lunar simulated terrain would comprise craters, rocks, lava ridges, inclines and lunar soil.

The students designed a vehicle to address a series of engineering problems that are similar to problems faced by the original Moonbuggy team in space. The moon buggy accordingly was human powered, carrying two students, over a half-mile simulated lunar terrain course including craters, rocks, “lava” ridges, inclines and lunar soil.

Original design

The four-wheel vehicle designed by the students was highly appreciated for its unique design complemented with collapsible, lightweight structure and was also sturdy. It was designed in such a way that it performed the same feat as the original Apollo era lunar rover.

The “Great Moon buggy Race” made its debut in 1994, and was inspired by the original lunar rovers developed for the Apollo moon missions in the 1970s by NASA Marshall Space Flight Centre engineers.

Velammal School already has a distinction when the young scientists, D.S. Mukilan and C. Gowtham Gopal, secured the top spot in the international NASA Space Shuttle Contest held in 2008.