RISD/NASA Moon Buggy

RISD’s Industrial Design department is entering NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race this year. Up against 70 engineering schools, they are the first design school to enter the yearly contest. I was lucky enough to attend the unveiling and critique of their buggy in December.

The vehicle is a 2-seat pedal powered reverse-trike that folds into a 4′ cube. It features a reverse chain drive in the rear and a folding rear wheel arrangement. It uses as off-the-shelf bicycle components where ever possible.

Front seat is tilted to 95° while the rear seat is at 105°. Seats are molded carbon fiber with lumbar supports. Both seats fold and they lock together when deployed.

Steering was a challenge do to limited room for a steering wheel or joystick. Instead they have a lever on either side of the seat with direct linkage to rear wheels. The steering system folds in various ways for storage.

In initial development they shortened the length to improve turning.

3 1/2 weeks of main assembly, 2-3 days for the drive train. Estimated speed of 11mph and a very low gear ratio for climbing. Mass under 80lbs. All wheel drive. Main challenge was getting consensus among 15 people and 5 system teams.

Prototype finished for a fall semester class with the vehicle being fine-tuned during the January and February winter session. The competition at NASA Marshall is in April.

Moon Buggy Race is about addressing the terrain not space travel directly.

Lessons learned: Use all the same bolt size and type. Address systems at a much earlier stage in process. Rearranged teams in middle to keep things fresh.

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