The Ferris State University HPV team poses with its entry in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers eastern region competition, which Ferris State hosted for the first time. This was the fifth year the university has entered; with all of its vehicles being tricycles. (Ferris State Univ. photo)
Words and photos (except one) by Mike EliasohnTwenty-five college and university HPV teams were in Big Rapids April 26-28, competing in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers eastern region student Human Powered Vehicle Challenge, hosted by the Ferris State University College of Engineering Technology.
Teams came from as far as Florida, Missouri and New Hampshire. The Ferris State entry, a fully faired recumbent tricycle, was the only one from Michigan.
In the ASME competition, vehicles have to accommodate various size riders, male and female. Ferris State's solution for quick rider changes was a bottom bracket that could be pivoted back and forth, made possible by having the chain go from the single chainring to an idler/pivot point beneath. (The low-tech method some teams used was easily removable seat padding; the shorter the rider, the thicker the pad.)
There were 31 teams entered, but five no-shows, one of them being a senior engineering project from Calvin College in Grand Rapids. Other no-shows, according to Mark Archibald, chairman of HPV competition for the ASME, included a team from Cairo University in Egypt, who couldn't get their visas in time, and one from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., which lost its funding due to the federal budget sequester. Vehicles were scored in four areas: Design, speed event, innovation (new this year) and the 2.5 hour endurance race.
The entry from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., shown here during the speed event, finished first overall. On the handlebars are a control to lower the left side landing gear, turn signals, horn and headlight switch. The wheel, which has an anti-lock brake, bolts directly to the fairing, not to a separate frame.
Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla finished second at Big Rapids. Its entry is shown here during the speed event.
The University of Toronto tricycle finished third. It and the team and four other vehicles were back in the state May 18-19 for the Michigan HPV Rally.
“Design” factors, with most of the score based on written reports submitted a month prior to the competition, included the overall design, analysis, testing, safety and aesthetics. The speed event on Saturday morning took place at Roben-Hood Airport, north of Big Rapids, with vehicles racing side-by-side 400 meters down a runway, from a standing start. Each team had to compete with a male and female rider, with separate scoring for each. Placings were determined on a double elimination basis, after an initial qualification run. That is, a team had to lose twice to be eliminated. Innovation judging took place Saturday afternoon at the airport. Each team had to show/demonstrate/explain their vehicle in front of a panel of five judges, who evaluated capability, innovation and effectiveness and also could add to the score at their own discretion.
During the innovation judging, the team from the University of Florida in Gainesville demonstrates their InstaGator, all of which can be transported in the blue case. (The 18-inch wheels will fit inside, with the rest of the disassembled bike, but spokes might get bent, so the wheels were carried separately.)
When finished, the result is this front-wheel-drive recumbent, with rear-wheel steering (and two outrigger wheels). Holding everything together are eight torque couplings, two of which are necessary to hold the ASME-required rollbar. "A lot of our fun is trying new designs," said team member Daniel Ross of Merritt Island, Fla. The InstaGator earned second place in the innovation judging and ninth overall.
Each of the InstaGator's custom designed and machined couplings weighs 2.3 pounds. The frame is made from 1.5 inch .065 inch wall 4130 chromoly tubing. Fourteen U-F team team members made the 22-hour drive from Gainesville.
The Sunday morning endurance event took place on a approximately 1.8 km course on the Ferris State campus. The course included a slalom zone, a hairpin turn and a mandatory stop sign. Changing riders was mandatory and at least one of the riders had to be female. They also had to stop five times during the race to pick up groceries. When the competition was over, Rose-Human Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., was first, with 87.24 points. Second was the Missouri Institute of Science and Technology in Rolla, 79.35. Third was the University of Toronto with its new streamlined tricycle, 69.52; fourth, Kansas State University in Manhattan, 68.60, and fifth, Ohio Northern University in Ada, 67.85. Ferris State, in its fifth year of competing, finished sixth with 66.30 points – fifth in design (73.1 points); fifth in innovation (19.1); 9th in the speed events (43.51), and 12th in the endurance race, with 23 laps completed. The University of Toronto tricycle finished first in that event with 33 laps.
Students from Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., work on their vehicle April 27 at the airport.A goal in its design and construction was to save weight over Olin's previous vehicle, which weighed 70 pounds; the new one is 15 pounds lighter. Olin is an engineering-only college that started in the fall of 2002. It has about 350 students.
The event at Ferris State marks 30 years that the ASME has sponsored student human powered vehicle competitions. The west region event this year was held at San Jose State University in California. There also was a Latin America competition at Universidad Simon Bolivar in Venezuela. And starting later this year will be the first such competition in India. With perhaps 200+ student engineers competing at Ferris State, what's in it for them? After all, the bicycle manufacturing industry employs relatively few engineers compared to many other industries, so presumably few, if any, will end up designing bicycles for a living. (Though I did talk in Big Rapids to the mother of University of Florida co-ed who was doing an internship at Specialized in California, which makes bicycles, equipment and rider gear. But she wasn't necessarily designing bicycles.
The University of Central Florida entry was the only one not using some form of rotary drive. The linear drive "pedals" move in unison, pulling on the non-continous belt, which makes the pulley go round. A chainring on the other side of the pulley drives a 3-speed hub, which runs to the 9-speed cassette on the rear drive wheel. This was the first year UCF has entered the ASME competition. For the five students on the team, it was a 1,300-mile drive from Orlando to Big Rapids.
“Most employers seeing any project like this see it very favorably,” said Archibald, the ASME HPV competition chairman and a professor of mechanical engineering at Grove City (Pa.) College, which had an entry in the competition. He said an ASME study showed the trait most important to employers is being able to work with others. The HPV competition obviously requires team members to work with fellow students to design and build and then compete with their HPVs. He said employers also like to see hands-on experience by prospective employees, which the HPV competition demonstrates. The ASME rules require participants to be engineering students, but they don't have to be studying mechanical engineering. Riders have to have been involved in the design or building of the bike. The purpose, Archibald explained, is to prevent a team from using riders who are studying non-engineering topics, who happen to also be bicycle racers.
The City College of New York entry had a carbon fiber frame, front wheel drive and rear wheel supported on one side only. There also was front fairing. Minus the fairings, it weighed 42 pounds.
The HPVs competing showed a wide range, from very sophisticated to simple, reflecting how long the schools have been building HPVs and competing and budgets. Some vehicles were built of carbon fiber and others from rectangular steel tubing; some had full fairings and others, no streamlining at all. Each team also had to decide what approach to use – designing something they know will work or trying the experimental. For instance, the linear drive tricycle from the University of Central Florida in Orlando was the only entry not using conventional rotary drive. “To be different,” UCF team member Jeremy Porta of Titusville replied when asked why they chose linear drive, And secondly, linear drive has a theoretical advantage over rotary drive, since it eliminates top- and bottom-dead-center. That is, with linear and lever drive, one foot is always pushing down, while the other is pulling up (if clipless pedals or toe clips are being used). However, with the UCF entry, both feet push down or pull up at the same time, rather than alternating.
The College of New Jersey (in Ewing) entry featured push-pull lever steering. The drive system consisted of triple chainrings in the front, a crossover drive and 8-speed internal hub as the final drive. The fairing consisted of inner and outer layers of fiberglass, with an 1/8th foam layer in-between.
In a follow-up e-mail, after reviewing a draft copy of this article, Archibald wrote:
"For your interest, we have had upright bikes compete, including a bamboo frame and some very nice carbon frames. In general, the uprights do well, but they are just not fast enough to win the races. I have seen some exciting drag races between the recumbents and uprights. Our length of 400 meters is long enough that the improved aerodynamics makes the difference, and the faired recumbents win in the end.
In addition to the schools already mentioned, also competing were Union College, Schenectady, N.Y.; Daniel Webster College, Webster, N.Y.; Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, N.C.; University of Missouri - Kansas City; University of Wisconsin - Madison; Mississippi State University; SOuthern Illinois University - Edwardsville; University of Southern Indiana; Virginia Tech; University of Kansas; West Virginia University; University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee; Ohio Northern University; and Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, Ga.