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Moorhead Helps Take Human Powered Vehicle Challenges Worldwide

Thursday, April 30, 2015
Mike Moorhead working with students in the BIC.

International Impact: As chairman of ASME's Human Powered Vehicle Challenge Committee, Mike Moorhead has overseen the expansion of the program into other corners of the world.

In the eight years since he joined Rose-Hulman's mechanical engineering faculty, Mike Moorhead, PhD, has seen the institute's Human Powered Vehicle Team (HPVT) to victory in 12 American Society of Mechanical Engineers' (ASME) Human Powered Vehicle Challenges. Most recently, the group earned first place in the 2015 West Coast Finals in San Jose, California on April 26.

The team's success in both the East Coast and West Coast competitions, he says, is secondary to the learning opportunities the experience affords.

For Moorhead, teaching and learning are always the primary goals. It's one of the reasons he came to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

"This is exactly the kind of place I was looking for-someplace that you can go and focus on teaching," he recalls.

All the better if that teaching involves hands-on opportunities to put engineering theory into practice, as with the HPV team. Moorhead knew the value of such experiences because he had participated in a similar opportunity as an undergraduate student with the SAE Aero Design Competition team at Rochester Institute of Technology.

"I knew I wanted to get involved in those types of projects" as a faculty advisor, he says.

Moorhead, who had taken up cycling while earning his master's and doctoral degrees at Cornell University, was naturally drawn to Rose-Hulman's HPVT. The vehicle itself is a specially configured recumbent bicycle, with custom-designed fairings that maximize its aerodynamics.

Through the team experience, the students have the chance to enhance their understanding of the engineering concepts taught in the classroom.

"It allows them to use certain things we learn in the classroom, but it also allows them to learn things there's no way to teach in the classroom," he explains. Team members not only bolster their engineering skills, they also learn real-world project management and budgeting through the effort. After graduation, the experience helps them hit the ground running for their future employers.

Now, Moorhead has taken his involvement to the next level, as chairman of the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge Committee for ASME. In this role, he has overseen the expansion of the program into other corners of the world, including HPV competitions in India and Latin America. Next year, the organization anticipates holding separate Latin American events in Mexico and Colombia.

One of the challenges of the international competitions has been maintaining a level of consistency while adapting the event to the site's unique circumstances. Moorhead points to the India competition as an example of how the event had to be modified to accommodate an underdeveloped infrastructure.

He says that while the Indian competitors were eager to have an exact replica of the U.S. competitions, "Perhaps an international competition should not look like a competition in the U.S." Moorhead also cited the need make the contests culturally appropriate and give them the "right amount of local flavor."

His approach has proven successful. The Indian event proved so popular, he adds, that the organization had to turn teams away.

Moorhead says the committee hopes to add events in Europe and the Middle East, soon.