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Third in World, MTSU Lunar Rover Team Regains Lofty U.S. Status


The MTSU Experimental Vehicles Program lunar rover team has regained its status as best in U.S.

A 5-minute-plus finish April 18 on the U.S. Space and Rocket Center half-mile obstacle course in Huntsville, Alabama, propelled the MTSU rover nicknamed “The Beast” to a third-place finish behind Russia and runner-up Germany in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge.

The event is held annually for university and high school teams to encourage research and development of new technology for future mission planning and crewed space missions to other worlds.

To view video about the successful Experimental Vehicles Program, visit


No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 3 in the world are A-OK with captain Beau Hallavant.

“It’s a breath of fresh air … the weight off our shoulders,” said Hallavant, a senior mechanical engineering technology major from Bell Buckle, Tennessee, recalling all the hard work and preparation leading to the two-day competition. “I don’t know that it’s sunk in yet.”

“I don’t have time to soak it up,” added Jeremy Posey, the engineering technology graduate student in charge of the entire Experimental Vehicles Program. “There’s too much to do. We have to leave Saturday (April 26) for the Formula Hybrid competition.”

The MTSU Formula Hybrid team will make the 22-hour journey to Loudon, New Hampshire, where the event will be held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

All involved point to the drivers, Zack Hill of Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Nichole Wanamaker of Clarksville, Tennessee, and the team’s depth and experience as the reasons for MTSU’s high finish — the same as 2013 — after placing fourth in the U.S. and fifth overall in 2014.

“We’ve never had drivers with that much heart and that made all the difference,” Hallavant said.

Posey added that the drivers “didn’t give up. They pushed all the way to the end.”

Team-wise, “everyone jumps right in,” Posey said. “We have so many now so willing to do the work. As leaders, we can step back and all we have to do is direct the workflow.”

College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer said he was extremely proud of the team.

“The students who worked on this project have demonstrated the same innovation and ambitious spirit that put the first Apollo-era lunar rover on the moon four decades ago,” Fischer said.

“These types of hands-on experiences, which allow students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to applied problems, are what make the College of Basic and Applied Sciences at MTSU the place to be for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” he added.

The design of “The Beast,” which was built for the 2014 competition and modified this year, is “the best design MTSU has ever come up with and one of the best NASA’s ever seen,” Posey said.

MTSU’s second entry, nicknamed “The Model-A,” placed 19th with a best time of 9:17 April 18. Hallavant said the course was tougher this year. Russia’s winning time of 4:22 was 13 seconds slower than the 2014 winner, the University of Puerto Rico Humacao Team 2.

MTSU team members were extremely pleased they finished ahead of fourth-place Tennessee Tech, a state rival. LSU placed fifth. Murfreesboro’s Central Magnet School placed 11th in the high school division. MTSU provides parts, machining and advising to the Central students.