‘Chester’s Chariot’ rides into ninth


By Heather Mendiola

Union’s Human Powered Vehicle team takes three students’ senior project to competition

On April 10, Union’s Human Powered Vehicle team flew to Orlando, Fla., for the 2014 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) sponsored Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC).

This is an annual competition. ASME states that the challenge is “an opportunity for students to demonstrate the application of sound engineering design principles in the development of  sustainable and practical transportation alternatives.”

In other words, the students need to design a prototype human powered vehicle for everyday use in both developed and underdeveloped countries.

In developed countries, the vehicle would be used for sustainable transportation to and from work or the store. In underdeveloped countries, the vehicle would be helpful for long trips on which a person would otherwise walk. Because this is a prototype for an everyday vehicle, the human-powered vehicle design must have a compartment for storage.

The Union team’s human powered vehicle (HPV), “Chester’s Chariot,” competed against 36 teams and took ninth place overall. This is the third year Union has competed. This year, the team bested last year’s vehicle’s, “Riding Dutchmen’s,” 13th-place finish.

The Union team consisted of five members, all mechanical engineers: three seniors, Marjorie Chee ’14, John Lombardi ’14 and Zacarie Hertel ’14, as well as two underclassmen participants, Jesse Coull ’16 and Melissa Mansfield ’14. The HPV team advisor is Professor Ramasubramanian (aka Professor Ram).

The designing, constructing and optimizing of Chester’s Chariot was the senior members’ senior project. Each senior had his or her own component of the HPV.

Chee focused on the steering, brakes and commercially available drivetrain components, which deliver power to the driving wheels. This means that through computations, simulations and physical testing, Chee determined compatible parts for the vehicle.

Hertel had the chromoly frame, which had to be computer-simulated and physically tested for withstanding the vehicle’s required weight.

Lombardi had the lightweight fairing, or aerodynamics.  This means that he was responsible for the partial covering on the front of the bike that reduces drag and protects the rider from the elements, as well as the rear covering protecting the storage compartment.

There were four events for evaluation: design, innovation, drag race and endurance race. Chester’s Chariot took seventh place in design, 18th place in innovation, second place in the endurance race, the male rider took 13th place in the drag race and the female rider took 21st place in the drag race.

The design event is in the form of a report, where the vehicle is judged on its overall design and whether it is safe, well-supported, and possessing a roll protection system that can withstand 600 pounds of force overhead and 300 pounds of force on the side. The team satisfied all of these components.

The innovation event is the demonstration of how unique a vehicle’s design is. This event allows students the liberty to develop their own solutions to human powered vehicle problems. The team’s innovation was sustainability. They used a solar panel attached to the rear fairing material that powers the front and rear lights through USB. The solar panel can also be used to charge a cell phone or iPod, if needed.

The drag race event is to test the speed of the vehicle. The event takes place in one of two forms. Teams can either do a 100-meter flying start trial or a head-to-head drag race.

The endurance race is a 2.5-hour event to see how many laps the riders and bikes can complete in that time. The course is a closed 1.85-kilometer loop in which the riders must pick up a jug, do a quick turn, go over some bumps and more, before coming to a complete stop.

Chester’s Chariot and team members completed 29 laps, right behind the winning team, which completed 34 laps.

This year’s team took last year’s desired changes with this year’s design constraints as the building blocks of Chester’s Chariot.

The team’s report stated the goal for Chester’s Chariot was “to produce a fast, efficient, sustainable and practical human powered vehicle that can be safely used as an alternative form of transportation for users throughout the world.”

The desired changes from last year’s team were to reduce the overall size, weight and turning radius of the vehicle, as well as to optimize the high gears. The team swapped materials when they found lighter alternatives. They also changed the frame to provide a more balanced support with a smaller turning radius. The Riding Dutchmen weighed over 100 pounds last year, but Chester’s Chariot weighs just over 51 pounds.

The Chester’s Chariot crew began research and design in fall term and they worked throughout winter and spring breaks to construct and test this vehicle before competition. After countless hours of work, the team can finally stop working and enjoy the physical evidence of all their hard work and dedication.

A trophy for second place in the endurance race is not a bad reward, either.


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