News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 28, 2009

Rose Human Powered Vehicle team defends title

By Dale Long/Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Nothing may be sweeter than that first taste of victory, but the second triumph may have been more gratifying — and dramatic — for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s team in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Human Powered Vehicle East Coast Challenge.

The swift vehicle needed every inch of its sleek carbon fiber body to top the regional competition for the second straight year.

Rose-Hulman nosed out rival Missouri University of Science & Technology at the finish line of the female drag race to win the prestigious engineering design competition in Philadelphia, out of 29 teams from North American and international colleges.

Now, the team is preparing to defend its title in the ASME West Coast Challenge on May 1-4 in Portland, Ore.

Contributing to the victory were the following performances:

• Male Sprint Race – First Place (45.6 mph top speed)

•n Female Sprint Race – Second Place (38.7 mph top speed)

• Female Drag Race — First Place

• Design Report — First Place

• Overall Drag Race — First Place

“There’s a feeling of satisfaction that last year’s (ASME East Coast title) was no fluke. We’re establishing Rose-Hulman has a competitive force in collegiate human powered vehicle competitions,” stated Project Manager Jeff Van Treuren, a junior mechanical engineering major. “It’s great to see all of our hard work pay off, and get that outside gratification from competition judges and members of competing teams.”

Rose-Hulman’s single-rider vehicle is 8 feet long, 21 inches wide, 391/2 inches tall and weighs 75 pounds. The team’s innovative design features body shell made from sturdy carbon fiber, Nomex materials, a sub-frame that has the front wheel pedal drive and steering systems. It takes several seconds for the vehicle to build up speed, but can get up to 35 mph in less than 30 seconds.

That speed was put to the test in the female drag race, which pitted Rose-Hulman against MST in the final 75-meter races of the East Coast Challenge. After navigating through three smooth turns and three roundabout circles, driver Rachelle Cobb, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, steadily pulled away over the final 100 yards to defeat the Missouri competitor in a jubilant dash to the finish line. The Olin College of Engineering (Mass.) placed third in the overall competition.

“Wow, that was exciting and way too close,” admitted engineering manager/driver Danny Sing, a mechanical engineering graduate student. He was a member of the inaugural HPV team that failed to get off the starting line in 2006.

While weighing more than originally designed, Sing admits that this year’s vehicle is easier to get started and turn corners, more stable at low speeds and has a more reliable drive train, which features a nine-speed gear system that’s easily adjustable between races. The vehicle took top design honors for safety, innovation and testing.

“We wanted to design a safe and reliable vehicle. We achieved all our design objectives and won races, too,” stated Treasurer Chris Wlezien, a junior mechanical engineering major.

Sing added, “We built a vehicle to race competitively in two distinct races. The East Coast challenge is entirely different that the West Coast Challenge. We’re ready for whatever challenges are put in out path.”

Other drivers of the vehicle in competition include Andrew Bomar, a freshman mechanical engineering major; and Ariel Young, a sophomore mechanical engineering major. Contributing to the team’s strong effort were members Molly Nellis, a senior electrical and mechanical engineering major; Cole Pearson and Sean Hannon, sophomore mechanical engineering majors; and Jeff Dovalovsky, a sophomore computer engineering student. The team’s faculty advisers are Pat Ferro and Michael Moorhead of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Joining Rose-Hulman in competing in the East Coast regional was the University of Iowa, University of Oklahoma, Iowa State University, Northern Illinois University, the Naval Academy, Rutgers University and the Indian Institute of Technology of Delphi, India.

More information about the ASME’s Human Powered Vehicle competitions can be found at Details about Rose-Hulman’s team can be found at