HCS Alumni Profile: Taylor Gammon (SSC/RFBMS/HHS)
September 20, 2019
Ian Thompson/HCS C.R.E.W.
(HCS) - Taylor Gammon was part of the very first Engineering Academy (EA) cohort Hoover High School (2004-2008). The impact of EA stays with him to this day.
“I remember Dr. (Mark) Conner coming to speak to us in 8th grade at R.F. Bumpus Middle School about the new Engineering Academy. What he was talking about really appealed to me. Math and sciences were my skill-sets. He immediately got me interested in his program,” Gammon said.
Eleven years later, Gammon - now 29, is a mechanical engineer for Polaris Industries at its Huntsville location. After graduating Hoover High, he studied mechanical engineering at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. He has been with Polaris, known as the leader in the power sports industry, since 2016, previously working for the Eaton Corporation. He was a lead engineer on a project undertaken by Polaris to recreate the Lunar Landing Vehicle used on the Moon on Apollo Missions 15, 16 and 17.
“The U.S. Space & Rocket Center (located in Huntsville) wanted to put on a series of events in July to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing. One of their ideas was to have a functional replica on the Lunar Roving Vehicle. Polaris is number one in off road and it doesn't get any more off road than the Moon," Gammon pointed out. “They approached us and we jumped at the chance.”
Making this special project even more poignant was the fact many of the original design team from 50 years ago are still around and were delighted to be involved. Polaris couldn’t exactly work alongside an existing LRV as the three models remain on the Moon, but similar-working models were available to access. Gammon, along with four other Polaris engineers, made up the core group from Polaris who took on this “labor of love” in addition to their regular jobs for the company.
“Who wouldn’t want to have such an opportunity?” Gammon said - while noting he had switched departments from tube fabrication to liquid paints while working when he could be on the LRV project.
“It was key to Polaris that we remain accurate and true to the original design and specs, but that we use functional and serviceable Polaris parts in its design and build, showing a lot of what Polaris has to offer. Thus, the suspension is from one of our ATVs; the steering rack from our Slingshot (a three-wheel motorcycle); the batteries from our Gem Electric vehicle; headlights from our Indian Motorcycle; and so on.”
Polaris more than delivered and the LRV was the star of the show in various festivities held recently to celebrate the Apollo era.
“To use one of (legendary aerospace engineer) Wernher Von Braun’s most famous quotes, they were ‘Dancing in the Streets’ in Huntsville and this was the idea behind a parade ending at the Von Braun Center in downtown (Huntsville),” said Gammon.
He also noted that the LRV has now been donated by Polaris, along with a custom-built trailer, to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center for central use in their outreach programs.