NASA has announced the winners of their annual Human Exploration Rover Challenge, or HERC, and Owensboro Community & Technical College finishing in second place in the College/University division.
The competition was held on April 21 and 22 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Timmy Dorris, of Drakesboro, was one of the four-person team.
The 2023 Rover Team is Max Humphreys, Gretchen Lents, Virginia Neighbors, and Dorris. The support team includes Shawn Payne, Mary Kinney, Danny Moseley, Randy Crowe.
Dr. Meredith Skaggs was not able to make the trip, but worked with the students all semester. This is a collaborative project with students from computerized manufacturing and machining, and welding departments playing major roles, along with faculty expertise.
There were 48 teams from 20 states and eight countries at the competition. The HERC hosts two divisions, one for colleges and universities and one for high schools. Students must navigate the course and are judged based on time, the number of obstacles conquered, and the tasks they accomplish along the way.
The course and obstacles are built to mimic lunar objects and surfaces, and the tasks are related to things astronauts would collect in the field. The team’s tools must collect multiple samples without causing any cross-contamination. The overall competition score includes not only the action on the course but reports and presentations completed by the team over the last several months.
This year’s rover weighed in at 173 lbs. and OCTC was the only community college to participate in the contest.
The team was off to a fast start on the first day of competition, and blazed through the course in 7 minutes, 43 seconds, driven by the pilot team of Virginia Neighbors and Timmy Dorris. After the first round, the team was in second place, with 116 points.
One of the team’s main goals was to build a Rover to conquer the boulder obstacle course, which past OCTC teams found the most challenging. The 2023 OCTC Rover flew through the boulder challenge.
At the end of the first round, University of Alabama Huntsville was in first place with 130 points, and a time of 6:53, OCTC remained in second, and third place was Florida Atlantic University with a time of 7:50 and 111 points.
The team was confident they could pick up more points and cut some time for the second round.
The second day of competition saw a revised strategy for OCTC, who swapped some obstacles for some tasks hoping to decrease time and increase points scored. The strategy paid off and they blistered the course in 7:04 and completed two additional tasks, scoring 125 points.
In addition to earning second place overall, the OCTC Team earned the Task Challenge Award. The University of Alabama – Huntsville earned first-place honors and Ohio Northern University placed third.
OCTC’s Shawn Payne, commented, “This marks OCTC’s personal best at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. We hope seeing our success encourages other community and technical colleges to consider participating! The entire team would like to thank NASA Kentucky, Be Real Sports Cycling & Fitness, and Owensboro Community & Technical College for allowing these opportunities.”