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Trailblazing engineering design team takes recumbent trike on the road to national competition

By Morgan Borer | Jul 29, 2015

Photos by Ashley Stottlemyer

As classes ended in May, a group of Ohio University engineering students headed for the sunny state of Florida. However, they weren’t looking for a beach vacation – they were entering uncharted waters as OHIO’s first team to compete in the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC).

Nine Russ College students from the OHIO chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) competed in the HPVC, hosted by the University of Florida in Gainesville. There, the team tested their three-wheeled recumbent trike design against university teams from around the country.

“Going into this year, our main goal was to give the team members as much experience as possible. We also wanted to set a high bar for future years,” said master’s student and team founder John Mullen. “I believed we had a fairly competitive design to bring to the competition, and the whole team wanted to see, ‘Where do we stack up?’”

Mullen founded the team in fall 2014, working closely with Cody Petitt, both currently master’s students in mechanical engineering. Together, the pair recruited members and secured funding for the competition.

In the end, the team placed thirteenth overall, taking eleventh in design report competition, seventh in the women’s drag event, fifth in the men’s drag event, and fourth in the endurance event.

“This was very much testing the waters and just doing our best. Going in, I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know how this is going to go.’ I didn’t expect us to place as well as we did,” Petitt said.

The team also received an unexpected sportsmanship award for their positive attitude and eagerness to help out the other teams in times of distress.

“Because we were so helpful, we got along with everyone. We became the team that everyone came to. There were teams that were dropping out, and we were like, ‘Come on, you can do it!’” Petitt said. “That was really cool.”

While the team faced some challenges, including several bike malfunctions and breakdowns that required some late-night – and early-morning – repairs, they never saw these as insurmountable.

“It wasn’t ever a roadblock, it was more like, ‘Hey, how can we fix this?’” Mullen said.

Rachel Schack, a rising junior in mechanical engineering, served as the only female member of the team and raced each of the female drag race events. There were also four freshmen on the team, two of whom will be taking over as co-captains next year.

“Rachel did so well, she got us the starting position for the endurance race,” Petitt recalled.

According to Petitt, the team couldn’t stop talking about the competition and critiquing their work on the ride back to Athens.

“I don’t think the team slept during the 14 hour drive back. It was cool to see their enthusiasm and passion for next year’s potential. The thing that I’m most proud of is definitely the team,” Petitt said.

This fall, the group plans to begin a new vehicle design immediately, taking advantage of their momentum. This will allow for more time spent manufacturing, fine-tuning and practicing with the vehicle before the races. The team also hopes to recruit new members of all ages in the fall. 

Trailblazing engineering design team takes recumbent trike on the road to national competition

By Morgan Borer | Jul 29, 2015

Photos by Ashley Stottlemyer

As classes ended in May, a group of Ohio University engineering students headed for the sunny state of Florida. However, they weren’t looking for a beach vacation – they were entering uncharted waters as OHIO’s first team to compete in the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC).

Nine Russ College students from the OHIO chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) competed in the HPVC, hosted by the University of Florida in Gainesville. There, the team tested their three-wheeled recumbent trike design against university teams from around the country.

“Going into this year, our main goal was to give the team members as much experience as possible. We also wanted to set a high bar for future years,” said master’s student and team founder John Mullen. “I believed we had a fairly competitive design to bring to the competition, and the whole team wanted to see, ‘Where do we stack up?’”

Mullen founded the team in fall 2014, working closely with Cody Petitt, both currently master’s students in mechanical engineering. Together, the pair recruited members and secured funding for the competition.

In the end, the team placed thirteenth overall, taking eleventh in design report competition, seventh in the women’s drag event, fifth in the men’s drag event, and fourth in the endurance event.

“This was very much testing the waters and just doing our best. Going in, I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know how this is going to go.’ I didn’t expect us to place as well as we did,” Petitt said.

The team also received an unexpected sportsmanship award for their positive attitude and eagerness to help out the other teams in times of distress.

“Because we were so helpful, we got along with everyone. We became the team that everyone came to. There were teams that were dropping out, and we were like, ‘Come on, you can do it!’” Petitt said. “That was really cool.”

While the team faced some challenges, including several bike malfunctions and breakdowns that required some late-night – and early-morning – repairs, they never saw these as insurmountable.

“It wasn’t ever a roadblock, it was more like, ‘Hey, how can we fix this?’” Mullen said.

Rachel Schack, a rising junior in mechanical engineering, served as the only female member of the team and raced each of the female drag race events. There were also four freshmen on the team, two of whom will be taking over as co-captains next year.

“Rachel did so well, she got us the starting position for the endurance race,” Petitt recalled.

According to Petitt, the team couldn’t stop talking about the competition and critiquing their work on the ride back to Athens.

“I don’t think the team slept during the 14 hour drive back. It was cool to see their enthusiasm and passion for next year’s potential. The thing that I’m most proud of is definitely the team,” Petitt said.

This fall, the group plans to begin a new vehicle design immediately, taking advantage of their momentum. This will allow for more time spent manufacturing, fine-tuning and practicing with the vehicle before the races. The team also hopes to recruit new members of all ages in the fall.