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RISD’s Moonbuggy Stands Out

10/21/2010

ID faculty member Michael Lye (left) looks on as Cassandra Maurer 10 ID demonstrates the moonbuggy at the studio crit.

As the first art and design school ever to enter NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race (an annual spring event), RISD stood out—showing the NASA commentators just what a team of designers can do. The competition sponsored by the US Space & Rocket Center challenges students to design, build and race lightweight, human-powered vehicles that can whiz across a simulation of a rugged lunar landscape. Teams are judged by how quickly and easily their vehicles negotiate the twisting curves, treacherous gravel pits and other obstacles of a half-mile course riddled with some of the same challenges faced by Apollo-era astronauts in their lunar rovers.

At the race in Huntsville, AL on April 9, 2010 RISD Industrial Design students competed against more than 70 other teams and took home third place, along with the Rookie Award for the best first try by a college team. Several of the race commentators noted with surprise that: “This team has no engineers, just design students!”

Just design students? “With design, it’s easy to say we don’t make anything that works, it’s all aesthetics,” notes Fiona Rupert 10 ID, one of the 15 ID students who designed and built the moonbuggy in a fall ID studio taught by Professor Michael Beresford and then worked to refine the vehicle during Wintersession. “That’s why this project is so exciting. We’re proving that good design is about function.”

Now that the moonbuggy has performed so well in the national spotlight, it is on permanent display in the ID Gallery at 161 South Main – after being shown to the public at the Warwick [RI] Museum for the month after the big race.


related links:
Rhode Island Monthly – Shoot for the Moon 
tags: innovation, Industrial Design, partnerships + collaborations, research, STEAM, students, wintersession

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The façade of the Chace Center, a new multipurpose hub that opened
in 2008, offers an interesting contrast to the historic campus
buildings that surround it.