Earlier this year, a team of students from Mayfield High School ranked among the top high schools from across the globe in the 24th Annual National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Human Exploration Rover Challenge, April 13-14, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. According to the NASA website, the annual competition challenges high school, college and university students to design, construct, test and drive lightweight, human-powered vehicles, or rovers.

MHS Rover Team

A team of students from Mayfield High School prepare to test drive the rover they designed and created at the 24th Annual National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Human Exploration Rover Challenge, April 13-14, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The five-person team, composed of MHS students Kevin Brooks, Aden Sanchez, Langdon Moore, Hailey Palacios and Karelly Stevens, placed 6th in the high school division and 9th overall, out of a total of the 96 teams. The MHS team was the only team from New Mexico that participated in this year’s competition, which featured schools from 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as several different countries, including Brazil, Germany, India and Mexico.

“These students and their teachers did an outstanding job of not only representing their school, but the entire state of New Mexico,” said Superintendent Greg Ewing. “I’m proud to see our students using their talent and skills to solidify their standing as the next generation of leaders in the STEM community.”

Prior to 2018, the challenge ranked teams solely on the time it took them to successfully navigate the obstacle course. However, the challenge was redesigned this year to better simulate an actual space exploration mission. As part of the redesigned competition, students had to navigate 14 obstacles and complete five tasks throughout the half-mile course, all within a six-minute time limit, to simulate a limited supply of oxygen.

In addition, each vehicle is required to be no larger than a 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet in volume. Teams earn points in the competition by assembling the rover in the allotted time; designing a rover that is lightweight; successfully completing course obstacles; performing tasks throughout the mission; and meeting pre- and post-challenge requirements. Each team is permitted two excursions. The greater score of the two is used for the final team score.

The MHS team’s rankings represent the school’s strongest showing at the competition in recent years. In the past two years, teams from MHS placed 18th and 8th, respectively, in the high school division.

Now in its 24th year, the challenge is organized by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to help teach stu­dents to troubleshoot and solve problems, exem­plifying the kind of engineering ingenuity that sustains NASA’s missions — and hopefully inspir­ing and molding new generations of scientists, engineers, technicians and astronauts, according to the NASA website.

-LCPS Communications Coordinator Paul Dahlgren, pdahlgren@lcps.net, (575) 527-5808