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April 9, 2008
By Sue Putnam
Fourteen mechanical engineering students will host and compete in the 25th annual Human Powered Vehicle Challenge in Reno, Friday, April 18 to Sunday, April 20. The University’s team will face 24 others in the upcoming Western regional contest for aerodynamic vehicles.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) sponsors the competition in hopes of finding a design that can be used for everyday activities like commuting to work and going to the grocery store. The three-day event will begin at Harrah's in downtown Reno, move to Stead Airport April 19, and finish at International Game Technology headquarters (9295 Prototype Drive in Reno) April 20.
“Having the event in Reno is a great opportunity to showcase all that Nevada has to offer, as well as provide an excellent educational opportunity for engineering students throughout the world,” said Candice Bauer, an international vice president for ASME, a lecturer in the College of Engineering and the team’s adviser. “ASME, the University, IGT, the City of Reno, and the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority are all committed to helping the environment, and it is a great honor to be hosting the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge the same weekend as Earth Day. The competition shows great dedication to going green and using technology to its full potential.”
The mechanical engineering society reports some riders have achieved speeds in excess of 40 mph, with the average person doing about 30 mph. But some land-based human-powered vehicles have achieved speeds of more than 60 mph.
The competition’s first stage is the preparation of a comprehensive design report. The second part includes design presentation and performance events, including sprint, endurance, and utility endurance categories. The vehicles are judged on design, safety and performance and the vehicles are raced against each other.
From initial design to the competition, rules are strict but the teams do have some flexibility. For example, riders can be in upright, prone or recumbent positions. The single and tandem vehicles compete in sprint and endurance events. The practical vehicle competition emphasizes its usefulness for daily activities such as shopping, transportation or recreation. The practical vehicles must negotiate a slalom course with the challenge of carrying packages and going over bumps, potholes or other obstacles while stopping at signs and obeying the rules of the road.
Team captains Jason Ross and Scott Waters have been working with the rest of the crew on “Battle Born” for several months.
“We are very excited to represent Nevada on our home turf this year, especially since it is the 25th anniversary of the competition, and this is one of the reasons we have named the 2008 vehicle ‘Battle Born,’" Waters said. “This year's vehicle represents a big change from the designs of previous years. Our team has typically created the main frame of the vehicle from steel or aluminum, and then made a carbon fiber shell called a fairing around that. This year, the frame of the vehicle is built into the fairing, so the entire body is created from carbon fiber. While it’s more difficult to manufacture, it will provide us with a vehicle which is very light and strong. Along with improved aerodynamics and a completely redesigned drive-train and steering system, the 2008 vehicle should be the University’s fastest design yet.”
Waters said most of the students on the team are participating in the project for credit as an elective design course. Team members were asked to collaborate to complete a design report which details the months of design work and analysis they have completed.
“I was very intrigued by the project,” said Kathelin Buxton, co-chair with Tara Lewis of this year’s hosting committee and a member of the 2006-2007 competition team. “It proved to be a very enlightening experience. I was also privileged with being able to represent our team as the female rider for the utility event, and a rider for the sprint event. It has been a great deal of work thus far, but I know the final product will make the experience well worth the time and effort.”
The Human Powered Vehicle Challenge helps engineering students combine design and analysis skills with hands-on manufacturing experience. Sponsors, including Cheetah Learning, General Electric and Abaris Training, help fund the project.
The ASME student chapter is seeking volunteers and donations. For a full list of sponsors, photos and a running blog of progress on “Battle Born” visit their website.