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February 27, 2014

Career center students to compete in int’l Rover Challenge (with video)

VINEMONT — A three-time world champion from his stint working for Huntsville City Schools in the 2000s, precision machining instructor Tim Wyatt is bringing his Moon buggy expertise to Cullman for NASA’s new rover competition.

Dozens of students at the Cullman Area Career Center are working together to build a makeshift Mars rover to compete in NASA’s first-ever Human Exploration Rover Challenge, which is replacing the annual Great Moonbuggy Race the agency has held for several years.

Per the competition, a two-seater craft will be driven by students across an obstacle course during the Rover Challenge, hosted at the U. S. Space & Rocket Center on April 10-12, and must survive and arduous course designed to mimic the surface of Mars. Students are working now to build the rover from scratch.

While in Huntsville, Wyatt worked with teams that won the top Moon buggy prize in 2006, 2007 and 2009. He’s now a precision machining instructor at the Cullman career center, and is helping organize a school-wide project for the inaugural rover competition that includes virtually every department at the campus.

“The biggest benefit is it gives these students some real-world experience,” Wyatt said. “They get to see what’s going on out in industry, and how you have to work together, and they literally design and build this thing from nothing.”

Departments ranging from welding, to drafting, to machining and wood-working are all pitching in to design and create the different components required to make the rover. They’re also designing some components specifically for the rover, including a new differential to help with speed and turning.

“There’s a big push for these types of crossover projects, so students can learn how all these skills connect,” building construction teacher Jerry Jones said. “Our kids have been really excited to be involved.”

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