Two Colorado State Human-Powered Vehicles Take Top Honors in National Competition at University of Nevada-Reno

For the second year in a row, Colorado State University students rode their single-rider, human-powered vehicle to a series of individual prizes and first place overall.

And in their first year of competition, mechanical engineering seniors designed and built a utility vehicle that also garnered individual wins and the top overall trophy.

Under the direction of Hiroshi Sakurai, associate professor of mechanical engineering, about a dozen students on each of the two teams started last August, using computer-aided engineering programs to design, analyze, test and built the vehicles.

The single rider HPV is designed for speed, and this year’s entry was nicknamed "Penguin" for its sleek aerodynamic fairing. The utility class vehicle has partial fairings at front and rear but is designed to be a more practical, load-carrying vehicle.

Twenty-two schools entered 30 vehicles (three were tandem vehicles against which Colorado State didn’t compete) in the Human Powered Vehicle Competition held this year at the University of Nevada-Reno. The competition was sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

In the single rider class, Sakurai said, Colorado State took first place in the design event, first place in the female sprint, fourth place in the male sprint and sixth place in the endurance event, leading to an overall first place.

And, in their first year of competition, the utility vehicle team earned a first place in the design event, second place in the endurance event (a 10-mile obstacle course) and a first place overall.

The team took first place in the design report overall, giving the two teams six of nine possible trophies.

Ryan Stewart, who led the single rider team, credited a design that used a large, single-member frame with bars as a key to their wins.

"Our vehicle was successful because it was shorter and narrower than last year’s, making it more aerodynamic," he said. Resembling a recumbent bicycle inside the fairing, the vehicle has a single drive wheel in back and two steering wheels in front, giving it stability and driving ease, according to Stewart.

"We wanted to defend our title from last year and add some more first-place finishes," he said. "We added the female sprint title and the two utility titles this year.

"We had a great team effort from everyone and great leadership from Prof. Sakurai."

Jeff Hunter said, "This was the first year we’ve ever entered the utility category, and the team pretty much came up with a vehicle that was original."

Intended for everyday use, the chassis resembles a tricycle (although the rider operates from a recumbent position), with suspension on each wheel for rider comfort. It comes complete with horn, lights, turn signals and a compartment that can hold up to a 100-pound payload.

Judges give points for design, Sakurai said, so the two teams designed their entries carefully.

"Since the students do engineering design and analysis well, the completed vehicles are also excellent," he said. "Thus, these vehicles did well in speed events, too."

While tricycles are at a disadvantage over bicycle designs in speed events – the wheels are outside of the rider’s legs, making the vehicle wider – "our students have been designing tricycles because they are more challenging to design and win with," Sakurai said.

Single rider team members were Derek Abbott, Mike Carr, Jennifer Chambers, Jeff Hunter, Dave Ebner, Eric Johnson, Jim Masters, Alison Smith, Ryan Stewart, Ryan Wanner, Bree Wilson (the team’s only junior and winner of the women’s sprint) and Jim Woller.

Utility team members were Leif Bothun, Dan Broughten, Mike Holland, Lucas Mallory, Kevin McDowell, Barrett Milenski, Mark Noble, Jordan Smith, Courtney Stahl and Bucky Tonkin.