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HOUSTON — As the sole ground crew member on the 2012 Carthage College Microgravity Team, Kevin Lubick is the only one on the team who won’t get to fly.

But instead of grousing over being grounded, Lubick stepped up to new challenges. He won first place in the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program’s engineering challenge on Tuesday.

“All ground crew members had to design, build and then test a Mars Rover,” said Lubick, a junior from DeForest. “On the first day, we had an hour to look at a parts sheet, draw our designs and estimate a budget.”

On Tuesday, the students finalized their designs and built their Mars Rovers using small engines, Lego-like blocks and other parts. Then the teams were tasked with using their Mars Rovers on a test terrain to collect rock and water samples. Every rock was worth a different amount based on its scientific value.

“We lost a wheel about six minutes in,” he said, but their design allowed the rover to keep going. “In the end, we spent $91 million on the rig, and collected $70 million worth of science. We won because we had the smallest deficit. Our key to success was building the cheapest rig possible.”

The challenge was a great way to hone his project management skills, “and it was fun,” Lubick said. “Even though we weren’t doing what the fliers were doing, they kept us on our feet.”

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