Engineering’s NASA rover places third overall in international HERC challenge

For the second consecutive year, students in Campbell University’s School of Engineering earned two national awards in NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge this week. For the first time, one of those awards is in the coveted “overall” category.

Campbell’s human-powered rover — designed, engineered and tested by students over the last eight months — finished third overall in the college/university division, and the team also earned the Task Challenge Award, given to the team that demonstrates a 3-D print tool for sample retrieval tasks. 

In 2021, Campbell took home the Project Review Award and the Ingenuity Award. This year’s challenge involved 91 teams total — 58 colleges and universities and 33 high schools.

School of Engineering Founding Dean Dr. Jenna Carpenter said her program is “thrilled” with the results over the past two years. 

“It is a testament to the outstanding leadership and dedication of our student leaders Sam Sandifer, Greeley Hibbard and Stephen Mayfield; their team members; and faculty advisor Dr. Lee Rynearson,” said Carpenter, who also credited the team’s sponsors — NC Space Grant, USARL, ANSYS and Campbell Engineering.

Rynearson said he was particularly happy with how Campbell students competed against much larger schools in the competition — programs from Purdue, Michigan, Virginia Tech and the University of Alabama Huntsville, the “home team” of the Alabama-based competition and home to a major space-focused engineering program. 

“Our team earned their recognition from NASA through attention to detail and hard work across design, analysis, fabrication, testing, reporting and operations of this year’s rover and scientific sampling equipment,” Rynearson said. “I’m proud of the team and their drive to excel across the board. We have demonstrated once again that Campbell engineers can compete with and win against some of the best young engineers from around the world.”

Sandifer, a junior engineering major and mission director for the HERC team, said the competition was a culmination of a “busy year, to say the least,” and he said he was grateful to Campbell and the School of Engineering for “access to great facilities” and “invaluable input we received from staff.” 

“All team members had to acquire new skills and grow as engineers in order to overcome and succeed in the monumental challenge with which we were tasked,” Sandifer said. “Persevering through some late nights, we made memories working as a team to engineer and solve the problems and setbacks that arose. With careful planning and collaboration we created a rover that I would say worked beautifully.”

The 2022 challenge was conducted virtually instead of at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

 For more than 25 years, the annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge and its sponsors have encouraged student teams from the United States and around the world “to push the limits of innovation and imagine what it will take to explore the moon, Mars and other worlds.”

The challenge is managed by the Office of STEM Engagement at Marshall. The competition reflects the goals of the Artemis program, which includes putting the first woman and first person of color on the Moon. NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement uses challenges and competitions to further the agency’s goal of encouraging students to pursue degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Main photo: Dr. Lee Rynearson and students Greeley Hibbard and Sam Sandifer


Awards were presented in nine categories.

Overall Winner

    • High school division:
      • First place: Parish Episcopal School, Dallas
      • Second place: Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology, Reno, Nevada
      • Third place: Tu Ciencia Joven, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
    • College/university division:
      • First place: Tecnologico de Monterrey, Xochitepec, Mexico
      • Second place: Trine University, Angola, Indiana
      • Third place: Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina

Project Review Award

  • High school division: Parish Episcopal School, Dallas
  • College/university division: Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

STEM Engagement Award

  • High school division: Decent Children Model Presidency School, Punjab, India
  • College/university division: Instituto Tecnologico de Santa Domingo, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic

Social Media Award

  • High school division: Bledsoe County High School, Pikeville, Tennessee
  • College/university division: Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore, India

Task Challenge Award

  • High school division: Tu Ciencia Joven, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
  • College/university division: Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina

Safety Award

  • High school division: Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology, Reno, Nevada
  • College/university division: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, Colombia

Ingenuity Award

  • College/university division: Tecnologico de Monterrey, Cuernavaca, Xochitepec, Mexico

Phoenix Award

  • High school division: Academy of Arts, Careers, and Technology, Reno, Nevada
  • College/university division: Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Videography Award

  • High school division: Parish Episcopal School, Dallas
  • College division: University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico


More information about NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge, is available online. For more information about NASA’s Artemis Student Challenges, visit: