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Autumn leaves at NASA Glenn
A view of the two elements of Gateway - power and propulsion element (PPE) and the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO).

Glenn High School Capstones
Simulated Lunar Operations

NASA Glenn Research Center is always looking for dynamic new ways to connect students with the mission content of the Agency. The Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) has an interest in providing high school students with opportunities which they can pursue research in support of capstone projects based upon real NASA science and engineering mission content.

Visit NASA Glenn Office of STEM Engagement about Glenn High School Capstones
Simulated Lunar Operations

Celestial bodies such as Mars or the Moon offer very little or no atmosphere that would enable rovers to utilize conventional wheels that we use on Earth. Researchers at the SLOPE (Simulated Lunar Operations) facility develop innovative airless wheels that can navigate lunar and Martian terrain including loose granular soil, dense high shear strength soil and a bedrock-like material.

Capstone Summary

For this capstone, students will design and fabricate a wheel that does not inflate and can function in an environment with little or no atmosphere.  Students must fabricate a five (5) inch diameter replica of the current Mars Curiosity Rovers in order to collect baseline data for comparison of results of their wheel design.  Student designed wheels must be at least five (5) inches in diameter and perform on dry sand over eight (8) feet on a grade of fourteen (14) degrees while carrying as much weight as possible.  Wheels will be evaluated by vehicle motion generated by traction forces only.  Any motion generated by propulsion forces observed by “kicking up” sand will not be considered.

Test Rig Components and Specifications

Test Vehicles may be commercially purchased.  It is recommended that motor specifications include a 75:1 gearbox, voltage range or 2 – 7.5 Volts, stall current of 6.6 Amps @ 7.2 Volts, no-load current for 420 mAmps @ 7.2 Volts per motor, no-load output shaft speed at 7.2 Volts, and stall torque at 7.2 V of 11 kg-cm (160 oz-in) per motor.  The test vehicles should utilize a microcontroller board as a general-purpose dual motor driver.

Key Dates

  • August 4, 2023 – Applications for the 2023-24 school year are open
  • September 22, 2023 – Fall application deadline, applications are due.
  • September 29, 2023 – Schools notified of fall application results
  • October 20, 2022, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Educator Professional Development (on-site and/or virtual)
  • October 27, 2023, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Virtual Kick-Off with NASA Subject Matter Expert(s)
  • January 5, 2024 – Winter application deadline, applications are due
  • January 12, 2024 – Schools notified of winter application results
  • February 9, 2024, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Virtual Subject Matter Expert Connection
  • April 26, 2024, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Capstone Culminating Event including student design presentations and corresponding lab tour on-site at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Participating schools unable to attend and/or outside the region will have an opportunity to present virtually.

2023 – 2024 Application Process

To apply please complete both the NASA Gateway application and the Supplemental application form as follows:

To access the 2023–2024 NASA Gateway application, please click here.

To access the 2023 – 2024 Supplemental application form, please click here.

After downloading and completing the Supplemental Application Form, please save it and upload the completed form as an attachment as part of the NASA STEM Gateway application.  Both application forms must be completed to be considered for this opportunity.

Contact Information

Gerald Voltz
Education Program Specialist

Phone: (216) 433-6656

Glenn Research Center – Office of STEM Engagement