What began with a dream and a drafting table became reality Friday, when the Huntsville Center for Technology team of Huntsville, Ala., was named champion of the high school division of NASA’s 13th annual Great Moonbuggy Race in Huntsville.

The team finished first in a field of 18 high school teams from across the country, which raced their original moonbuggy designs at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the annual host of the race.

The Great Moonbuggy Race is inspired by the original lunar rover engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville whose creations rumbled across the moon during the last three Apollo missions in the early 1970s. The NASA engineers had to design and build a compact, light, flexible and durable vehicle to carry astronauts on the lunar surface.

Students faced some of the same challenges while preparing for their race across a simulated lunar surface. The hands-on experience may inspire them to pursue careers in math, science and engineering and could lead them to be participants in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration of returning to the moon, reaching Mars and destinations beyond.

The Huntsville Center for Technology team finished the course 28 seconds ahead of the second-place team from Erie High School of Erie, Kan. Pana Senior High School of Pana, Ill., finished in third place.

The Huntsville Center for Technology team was awarded a trophy depicting the original lunar rover vehicle, which carried NASA astronauts across the surface of the moon in the early 1970s during the Apollo space program. The winning team also receives a free weekend at Space Camp in Huntsville. The second- and third-place teams received plaques honoring their achievement, and individual members of all three teams were awarded medals.

Pana Senior High School also was awarded “Most Unique Buggy” in the high school division. The award for “Best Design” went to the Huntsville Center for Technology. A special “Pits Crew Award” for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming problems during the race was won by Carlisle County High School in Bardwell, Ky. The “Most Improved” award went to returning race competitors from Erie High School.

“For all the teams that competed, the reward is in the journey that got them here,” said Jim Ellis, manager of the Academic Affairs Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. “They learned about designing, engineering and construction. Plus, they got to test their moonbuggies just a few miles from where the original lunar rover was designed at the Marshall Center. No matter where they finished in the rankings, all these teams are winners, because they learned things that could make them the next explorers of our universe.”

“We applaud the innovation and determination to succeed that characterized every entry in this year’s Moonbuggy race,” said Art Stephenson, vice president, space exploration systems for race sponsor Northrop Grumman Corp. “We hope that our commitment to sponsor the competition for the next several years will inspire many more students to enter the race and experience the immense personal and educational rewards it has to offer.”

Teams that will compete in the college division race Saturday spent time Friday tightening up their buggies and cheering on the high school racers. The field of 22 college and university teams, including two from the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao, begins racing Saturday at 8 a.m. CDT.

Other high school participants racing this year, listed alphabetically by state, are Autauga County Technology Center in Prattville, Ala.; Fairhope High School in Fairhope, Ala.; Madison County Career Center in Huntsville, Ala.; New Century Technology High School in Huntsville, Ala.; DeSoto High School in DeSoto, Kan.; Flinthills High School in Rosalia, Kan.; Carlisle County High School in Bardwell, Ky.; Graves High School in Mayfield, Ky.; Murray High School in Murray, Ky.; Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville, S.C.; Franklin County High School in Winchester, Tenn.; and Obion County Central High School in Troy, Tenn.

The first Great Moonbuggy Race was run in 1994 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing. Eight college teams participated that first year. In 1996, the race was expanded to include high school teams.

Many volunteers from both the Marshall Space Flight Center and the space industry ensure the success of the event. The Northrop Grumman Corp. sponsors this year’s Great Moonbuggy Race. Other contributors include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA); ATK Thiokol; CBS affiliate WHNT Channel 19 of Huntsville; Jacobs/Sverdrup; Morgan Research Corp.; Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC); the Tennessee Valley Chapter of the System Safety Society Inc.; and the United Space Alliance, LLC.

For photos of the top-finishing high school teams, visit the Marshall Newsroom at: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news

For more event details, race rules, and information on the course, visit: http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov

For more information about NASA and the Vision for Space Exploration, visit: http://www.nasa.gov