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Team beat all but two university teams before falling in a tiebreaker to European Space Consortium for high school students

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., April 17, 2019 – This past weekend, the Saint Thomas Academy Experimental Vehicle Team placed second overall, and first in the U.S., in the high school division of the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge (NASA news release). The team tied for first with a European Space Consortium for high school students from around the world but then lost the tiebreaker.

In addition to its performance completing the course and mission tasks (video), the team earned:
-    Rookie of the Year Award
-    Technology Challenge Award (beating all universities and high schools) for the student-designed and built carbon fiber wheels
-    Featherweight Award for the lightest high-school rover (117 pounds)
-    STEM Engagement Award for its outreach work with Girl Scouts and elementary students

Student Director Joe McMahon ’19 (Lynnhurst) said, "As a rookie team, we needed to quickly figure out the best way to earn the maximum amount of points and still stay under the time limit. We had prepared for every possible obstacle and task, but there was a definite disadvantage seeing it for the first time. We already have a long list of changes for next year!"

The competition saw nearly 100 teams from around the world competing in high school and college divisions. Saint Thomas Academy beat all but two university teams, including Auburn University, Drexel University, Purdue University, University of Houston, University of Memphis, University of Miami and Ohio State University. Team members also had the honor of being interviewed by NASA Astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams.

About the Competition
The NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge is an engineering design competition in which teams design and assemble a vehicle capable of traversing the simulated surface of another world and facilitating mission-objective tasks such as gathering environmental samples of the extraterrestrial terrain. This is the team’s first time competing in the annual challenge, which is held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

"Entering a new competition every few years is always exciting,” Team Adviser Caroline Little said. “The students get to experience the engineering design process from beginning to end. Watching their project grow from scratch work on paper to a NASA rover being raced at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is very rewarding for a teacher."

The multi-faceted competition awards points based on the team’s ability to assemble its 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. The challenge’s weight and time requirements encourage compactness, light weight, high performance and efficiency.

As part of the competition—before their first time on the course—rover entries are tested to fit into a lander equipment bay, a maximum 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet in volume.

Teams then navigate their rovers around the .5-mile course with only a virtual six-minute supply of oxygen and a one-minute reserve. They gain points as they progress through all stages of the competition. They earn additional points by returning the results of their mission tasks and finishing without using their oxygen reserve. The course includes a simulated field of asteroid debris—boulders from 5 to 15 inches across; an ancient stream bed with pebbles approximately 6 inches deep; and erosion ruts and crevasses of varying widths and depths.

About Saint Thomas Academy’s Rover
For the competition, EVT designed a rover with a 4-wheel suspension system and a parallelogram design to give more ground clearance. Independent front and rear transmission systems allow the two drivers to decide which of the 8-speed, internally geared hub works best individually at each bend of the course. The house-made, carbon-fiber seats and wheels provide light-weight durability. The 4130 chromoly steel frame has varying diameters and wall thickness to maximize strength and minimize weight. The rover weighs 107 pounds.

The students designed and engineered two lithium-powered task tools for gathering liquid and solid samples from the course. There’s also a mechanical filter that gathers spectrographic analysis of the area being explored. Perceiving the mission-objective tasks as equally important as the rover itself, the students spent as much time designing, prototyping, and testing the task tools as they did the rover.

The team faced many learning opportunities throughout the design and testing process, the most challenging being the fabrication of tread for the carbon-fiber wheels that had to be strong enough to withstand the different surfaces on the rover course. After testing multiple samples, the team chose a two-part urethane rubber with a durometer of 60. Attaching the urethane to the carbon proved to be an even larger problem as nothing adhered to the cured urethane. Applying ingenuity, the students used a foam intermediate pierced with tiny holes and placed it into the urethane before curing. Using an aerospace epoxy, the foam had great adhesion to the carbon.

Through the design process, the team learned to design in Fusion 360, V-Carve Pro, CoralDraw and TinkerCAD, and used the laser cutter to make templates and parts, 3D printers for rapid prototyping, a 3-axis mill for making molds, a plasma cutter for metal parts, and a TIG welder to assemble the 4130 Chromoly steel tubing for the rover’s frame.

The Team
From September 2018 through March 1, 2019, the 15-student team clocked more than 1,400 hours on the NASA Rover – all outside of class time. Student Director McMahon alone has worked on the project more than 140 hours since September.

Team members include:
Wil Applebaum ’21– Task Manager
Sam Cunniff ’19 – Wheel Design
Joe D’Agostino ’20 – Public Relations
Michael Hankee ’20 - Frame
Peter Holmes ’19 – CAD
Will Hoppe ’21 – Task Manager
Nicholas Kettler ’20 – Fabrication
Luke Kolar ’19 – Male Rover Pilot (MRP)
Yong Jae Lee ’20 – Fabrication
Murphy Lynch ’20 – Fabrication
Joe McMahon ’19 – Student Director
Lucas Montpetit ’19 – Mechanical Director
Daniel Staelgraeve ’21 – Task Manager
Jenna Westlake ’20 – Female Rover Pilot (FRP)
Robbie Wolfe ’19 – Wheel Design

Faculty Advisers:
Caroline Little
Mark Westlake

Team sponsors include: Power Systems Research, Saint Thomas Academy and Express Composites.

 

About the Experimental Vehicle Team
The Experimental Vehicle Team is a co-curricular program that teaches budding engineers real-life problem-solving skills. Founded in 1997 as the Supermileage Team, past Experimental Vehicle Teams have built multiple solar vehicles, a safer electric motorcycle for urban commuting, a one-person car that got more than 1,300 mpg and an electric car that traveled 50 miles on two car batteries. The team has won 15 national championships, one international championship and set numerous national records in its history.

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., April 10, 2019 – In the final match of the season, the Saint Thomas Academy “New Shooter” Rifle Team lost to Pacific MCJROTC, of Pacific, Mo., 1,058 to 1,037 in the National Air Rifle “New Shooter” League (box score). The team finished the season in 5th place overall with a 5-3 record (team page).

Saint Thomas Academy was led by Joe Brennen ’21 who shot a 264. The remaining contributing members were Bennet Kotok ’23, Joey Farrington ’21 and Jack Martin ’21. Saint Thomas Academy is coached by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Preblich, U.S. Army (ret.)

These two teams are competing in the National Air Rifle “New Shooter” League. Sponsored by the Orion Scoring System, the league is a national team league exclusive to athletes in their first year of competition. Teams are from high schools and junior rifle clubs throughout the United States. Over 10 weeks each team competes in 8 games. Each week, each team is paired with another team with a near equal win-loss record.

In each match, the teams compete in a Three-Position Air Rifle match. The match is modeled after Olympic rifle competitions but adapted to high school athletes. Each athlete shoots 10 shots in three different shooting positions, prone, standing and kneeling. Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points. The sum of points scored in the 30 shots is the athlete's total. The team score is comprised of the best four athletes from each team.

Team devoted 1,400+ hours to designing and building vehicle down to tread on tires

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., April 10, 2019 – The Saint Thomas Academy Experimental Vehicle Team will compete April 12 and 13 in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, an engineering design competition requiring the design and assembly of a vehicle capable of traversing the simulated gnarly surface of another world and facilitating mission-objective tasks such as gathering environmental samples of the extraterrestrial terrain. This is the team’s first time competing in the annual challenge, which draws nearly 100 teams from around the world. It is held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Saint Thomas Academy is scheduled to race Friday between 2-3 p.m. CDT and again on Saturday between 1-2 p.m. CDT. The competition can be watched live at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc

While this is the team’s first NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, Saint Thomas Academy has been part of Johnson Space Center’s Microgravity University for Educators (MgUE), the NASA Student Opportunities in Airborne Research (SOAR) program and the NASA HUNCH Program (High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware). Team Adviser Mark Westlake, director of Saint Thomas Academy's Innovation Center, was the 2017-2018 National Space Educator of the Year.  

Amassing points to win
The multi-faceted competition awards points based on the team’s ability to assemble its 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. The challenge’s weight and time requirements encourage compactness, light weight, high performance and efficiency.

As part of the competition—before their first time on the course—rover entries are tested to fit into a lander equipment bay, a maximum 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet in volume.

Teams then navigate their rovers around the .5-mile course with only a virtual six-minute supply of oxygen and a one-minute reserve. They gain points as they progress through all stages of the competition. They earn additional points by returning the results of their mission tasks and finishing without using their oxygen reserve. The course includes a simulated field of asteroid debris—boulders from 5 to 15 inches across; an ancient stream bed with pebbles approximately 6 inches deep; and erosion ruts and crevasses of varying widths and depths.

About the EVT’s Rover
For the competition, the EVT designed a rover with a 4-wheel suspension system and a parallelogram design to give more ground clearance. Independent front and rear transmission systems allow the two drivers to decide which of the 8-speed, internally geared hub works best individually at each bend of the course. The house-made, carbon-fiber seats and wheels provide light-weight durability. The 4130 chromoly steel frame has varying diameters and wall thickness to maximize strength and minimize weight. The rover weighs 107 pounds.

The students designed and engineered two lithium-powered task tools for gathering liquid and solid samples from the course. There’s also a mechanical filter that gathers spectrographic analysis of the area being explored. Perceiving the mission-objective tasks as equally important as the rover itself, the students spent as much time designing, prototyping, and testing the task tools as they did the rover.

The team faced many learning opportunities throughout the design and testing process, the most challenging being the fabrication of tread for the carbon-fiber wheels that had to be strong enough to withstand the different surfaces on the rover course. After testing multiple samples, the team chose a two-part urethane rubber with a durometer of 60. Attaching the urethane to the carbon proved to be an even larger problem as nothing adhered to the cured urethane. Applying ingenuity, the students used a foam intermediate pierced with tiny holes and placed it into the urethane before curing. Using an aerospace epoxy, the foam had great adhesion to the carbon.

Through the design process, the team learned to design in Fusion 360, V-Carve Pro, CoralDraw and TinkerCAD, and used the laser cutter to make templates and parts, 3D printers for rapid prototyping, a 3-axis mill for making molds, a plasma cutter for metal parts, and a TIG welder to assemble the 4130 chromoly steel tubing for the rover’s frame.


The Team
From September 2018 through March 1, 2019, the 15-student team clocked more than 1,400 hours on the NASA rover – all outside of class time. Student Director Joe McMahon ’19 alone has worked on the project more than 140 hours since September.

Team members include:
Wil Applebaum ’21 – Task Manager
Sam Cunniff ’19 – Wheel Design
Joe D’Agostino ’20 – Public Relations
Michael Hankee ’20 –  Frame
Peter Holmes ’19 – CAD
Will Hoppe ’21 – Task Manager
Nicholas Kettler ’20 – Fabrication
Luke Kolar ’19 – Male Rover Pilot (MRP)
Yong Jae Lee ’20 – Fabrication
Murphy Lynch ’20 – Fabrication
Joe McMahon ’19 – Student Director
Lucas Montpetit ’19 – Mechanical Director
Daniel Staelgraeve ’21 – Task Manager
Jenna Westlake ’20 – Female Rover Pilot (FRP)
Robbie Wolfe ’19 – Wheel Design

Faculty Advisers:
Caroline Little
Mark Westlake

Team sponsors include: Power Systems Research, Saint Thomas Academy and Express Composites.

About the Experimental Vehicle Team
The Experimental Vehicle Team is a co-curricular program that teaches budding engineers real-life problem-solving skills. Founded in 1997 as the Supermileage Team, past Experimental Vehicle Teams have built multiple solar vehicles, a safer electric motorcycle for urban commuting, a one-person car that got more than 1,300 mpg and an electric car that traveled 50 miles on two car batteries. The team has won 15 national championships, one international championship and set numerous national records in its history.

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., April 5, 2019 – Spotlight Education, an educational initiative of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, has recognized VISTA Productions – the combined fine arts program of Visitation School and Saint Thomas Academy – with several “outstanding” and “honorable mention” nods for the production of Little Women. The musical performed in the fall of 2018 was recognized as “outstanding” for Overall Production and Technical Crew. The cast and crew received honorable mention in the following categories:
•    Achievement in Musical Theater
•    Overall Performance
•    Ensemble Performance
•    Costume Crew
•    Overall Technical Team
•    Light & Sound Board Operators

Individual Honors
In individual categories, the following students were recognized:

•    Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role: Laura Breyen ’21 as Jo March
•    Honorable Mention for Performance in a Leading Role: Xuan Nguyen ‘20 as Amy March
•    Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role: Nicholas Horst ’21 as Laurie Lawrence
•    Honorable Mention for Performance in a Supporting Role: George Budzius ‘19  as Professor Bhaer
•    Outstanding in Technical Leadership: Edie Weinstein ’21 as board operator and Janae Lorick ‘19 as stage manager
•    Honorable Mention in Technical Leadership: Luke Englin ’19 as deck captain and Lizzie Nelson ’21as board operator

Any individual student receiving an Honorable Mention or Outstanding Honor is invited to perform in the Spotlight Showcase, a professionally produced, two-night event taking place at the Historic State Theatre in June. The event highlights the hard work and talent of the students, teachers, families and community members that are part of the vibrant high school musical theatre community in Minnesota. Over 1,600 students participated on and offstage at our 2018 showcase.

About Visitation
Visitation School, founded in 1873, provides an excellent education within a Catholic environment, combining a challenging academic program with the formation of students in faith and moral responsibility. Visitation is coed from preschool through grade five and all-girls in grades 6-12. Visitation is a member of the Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS), the National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS), the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Minnesota Association of Independent Schools (MAIS). To learn more about Visitation, go to www.visitation.net.

About Saint Thomas Academy
Founded in 1885, Saint Thomas Academy is an all-male, college preparatory, Catholic, military/leadership school committed to preparing young men in grades 6-12 to succeed in college and in life. The Academy challenges its students to excel academically, spiritually, morally and physically in and out of the classroom. It is fully accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS); and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the Minnesota Association of Independent Schools (MAIS), and the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMCSUS). For more information, please visit www.cadets.com.

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn., April 2, 2019 – The Saint Thomas Academy “New Shooter” Rifle Team upset Norview NJROTC of Norfolk, Va., 1,047 to 1,032 in the National Air Rifle “New Shooter” League (box score) recently. Saint Thomas Academy was able to win despite averaging 6 points lower than Norview NJROTC coming into this game. With the win, Saint Thomas Academy is in fourth place overall with a 5-2 record (team page).

Saint Thomas Academy was led by Joe Brennen ’21, who shot a 268. The remaining contributing members were Erick Zauha ’23, Joey Farrington ’21, and Jack Martin ’21. Saint Thomas Academy is coached by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Preblich, U.S. Army (ret.)

Next up Saint Thomas Academy will compete against the 6 and 1 Pacific MCJROTC from Pacific, Mo.

These two teams are competing in the National Air Rifle “New Shooter” League. Sponsored by the Orion Scoring System, the league is a national team league exclusive to athletes in their first year of competition. Teams are from high schools and junior rifle clubs throughout the United States. Over 10 weeks each team competes in 8 games. Each week, each team is paired with another team with a near equal win-loss record.

In each match, the teams compete in a Three-Position Air Rifle match. The match is modeled after Olympic rifle competitions but adapted to high school athletes. Each athlete shoots 10 shots in three different shooting positions, prone, standing and kneeling. Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points. The sum of points scored in the 30 shots is the athlete's total. The team score is comprised of the best four athletes from each team.