MTSU lunar rover team finishes seventh at NASA event

The MTSU Experimental Vehicles Program’s lunar rover team members used a new airless tire design and parts assembly to land a top-10 finish at this year’s NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge.

Motivated by a competition rules change regarding tires, recent MTSU graduate Thomas Kenney’s design and the machine shop work by junior mechatronics engineering major Kelly Maynard and others eventually kept the MTSU entry among the elite in the international field competing in Huntsville, Alabama, April 8-9 after a best-in-U.S. and third-place overall finish in 2015.

The event is held annually for university and high school teams to encourage research and development of new technology for future mission planning and crewed space missions to other worlds.

By competition’s end, separate mechanical issues (gear and a loose chain) dropped MTSU’s engineering technology entry to a seventh-place finish overall. Purdue University-Calumet earned first-place honors and the top design award.

“Our expectations were high as they always are,” said Saeed Foroudastan, program adviser and associate dean for the College of Basic and Applied Sciences. “We hope to do better next year.”

MTSU drivers Aaron Greenberg and Ailime Freitas maneuvered the obstacle course in 7 minutes, 15 seconds on Friday, April 8, but two penalties resulted in two minutes being added to their time. After a loose chain led to an even slower Saturday run, the 9:15 first-day finish wound up being MTSU’s best time, earning the top-10 finish.

— Randy Weiler (