DHS moonbuggy ready to shine
De Soto High School's moonbuggy team left at 6 a.m. Thursday to compete in the annual NASA race.
A team of nine students worked throughout the year to build the machine -- a four-wheel, two-seat bicycle -- which will be driven by Luke Krehbiel and Carrie Buser.
"It is sort of like a bike," Krehbiel said. "But it's heavier. We rode it around the school some."
On Friday, they'll race against the clock for two runs in the hopes their moonbuggy will beat teams from around the nation.
The team will drive 12 hours to Huntsville, Ala., which means they'll have to miss out on one of De Soto's ACT testing days and a regional music solo and small ensemble festival. They're hoping to arrive back in De Soto on Saturday just in time for this year's prom.
Buser will have to fly to Alabama because she has a soccer game just before the competition.
Other team members include Andrea Young, Kasey Willnauer, Alex Jacobo, Neal Brooks, Joey Grimm and Lindsay Koehler.
"We're going to do better than last year," said Jacobo.
The team has squeezed every last ounce of energy, even staying up until 3 a.m. on a school night to paint the moonbuggy a DHS green and black.
This year's moonbuggy team overcame many obstacles to be able to attend the race. At the beginning of the school year, NASA announced they would cut the program altogether.
The De Soto team set to work writing congressional representatives to bring back the moonbuggy race. After protests from parents and teachers across the country, NASA agreed to have the race again this year.
The De Soto team obtained sponsorships from several local companies including Huhtamaki, Zimmerman's Kill Creek Farm, Jodi Hitchcock, Clearview City, DHS Wildcat Boosters, Lambie-Geer Properties, George Butler Associates and Metal Cut to Length.
Last year, De Soto took two teams to the race. One buggy finished 16th out of 30 teams and the other buggy fell apart after going through the rough-terrain obstacle course.
This year, they're concentrating all their efforts into one machine. They're taking extra wheels, chains and parts just in case something breaks. Instead of bicycle chains, they're using thicker motorcycle chains and a suspension system to support the frame.
"We have to worry about the chains because they're bigger," Willnauer said.
Although the idea for this year's buggy was already being planned as they drove home from last year's competition, the real planning began last fall.
Students used the school's computer drawing programs to create a design. Now fully built, their machine folds in half to stand a little less than one cubic foot.
The rules state the machine must have seat belts, brakes and several safety measures. Two metal boxes astride the seats represent electronic devices that would be present on a real moon buggy, and the machine must also have room for a satellite dish.
This is the last year De Soto plans to enter the race. Faculty sponsor Jim Bonar said the school is considering other building and mechanics-based competitions for next year, like robotics.