Posted by: Carol | August 3, 2011

Rocklin High Students Design Trophy for NASA Competition

Hi, everyone! First, I want to welcome all of our new subscribers and thank you for joining us here. Several of you have contacted us about the possibility of contributing content for the blog, and we are very excited about collaborating with you to get your stories published here. In fact, today’s story is a direct contribution from Sierra College. The Sierra STEM Collaborative is a Community Collaborative grantee and last year, students from a partner high school, Rocklin High, had the opportunity to engage in a real-life engineering and design task. Read about it below!


Under the shadow of the Saturn 5 rocket at the NASA Space Center in Orlando, Florida, Rocklin High School student Patrick Kelly watched as the trophy he and three other students designed and Sierra College produced using a 3D printer, was presented May 28 at NASA’s first annual Lunabotics Mining Competition.

The trophy, developed by high school students and made in Rocklin, CA using the Sierra College Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT) rapid prototyping equipment, was presented to the University of North Dakota’s team. The two-day competition attracted 22 university teams that designed and built remote-controlled or autonomous excavators (lunabots) to collect and deposit a minimum of 10 kg of simulated moon dirt within 15 minutes. The event was hosted by the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) in collaboration with NASA Lunar Surface Systems to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as well as encourage innovation in lunar excavation.

From left to right: Joe Kosmo, University of North Dakota Team, Robert "Bob" Cabana, Kennedy Space Center Director

Rocklin High School instructor Dan Frank teaches Engineering Support Technologies (EST) and made the initial connection with NASA. “The EST program of study at Rocklin High School engages students in the product development cycle,” said Frank. “When I contacted NASA to explore opportunities, I discovered that they needed a Lunabotics trophy. Making the award offered a creative, real world product design challenge that would entice my students.”

Patrick Kelly, John Gildea, Michael Porter, and Bryce Adams designed a six wheel, 8x12x2 inch model of a lunabot. They developed the trophy concept from a picture on the competition announcement and began sketching ideas. They designed each component – wheels, hubs, bracing and frame – using Inventor software. Then they produced, tested, and refined their model.

"Joe Kosmo Award of Excellence" Trophy, designed and manufactured by Rocklin High School Engineering Support Technology Program students.

According to Frank, students learned the subtractive production process, where material is milled and machined off solid material to make the parts, as well as the additive process, where material is added in to build up the parts through rapid prototyping. “Producing the trophy on Sierra College’s three dimensional printer cut the development time in half and reduced the cost by more than 80% when compared to machining,” said Frank. “The students also learned functional analysis and changed the design after they evaluated the model.” Students can use these skills to study Engineering Support Technology, Engineering, Mechatronics and Energy Technology at Sierra College, and pursue science, technology, engineering and math careers.

For more information about Sierra STEM Collaborative activities, contact Carol Pepper-Kittredge at or (916) 781-6288.


  1. Educators interested in affordable 3D printing technology should take a look at 2BOT’s ModelMaker. It uses the subtractive process, described above, rather than the additive process, allowing for models to be created inexpensively and quickly.

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