Students Put the Pedal to the Metal as Competition Season Revs Up

Friday, May 13, 2016
Rose GPE

RoseGPE's Spencer Jackson (left) and engine lead Phil Lvov (right) prepare the team's newly designed racecar for a shakedown run.

Springtime is crunch time for the student competition teams that call the Branam Innovation Center (BIC) home. In recent weeks, some of those teams have been burning the midnight oil as they put the finishing touches on completely redesigned vehicles.

In the Rose Grand Prix Engineering (RoseGPE) team's work area, Spencer Jackson is anxious to get their new car on the track at Chrysler's proving grounds in Michigan. The team has been invited to a weekend event at the automaker's facility, where they will be able to practice in the categories in which they will later compete.

The event, he adds, is also a good networking opportunity where team members will have a chance to make industry connections.

Several members of the RoseGPE team designed and built the new car from the ground up as a senior design project. They've put the vehicle through its paces at a nearby airport several times in the last few weeks in an effort to work the bugs out.

"Things are bound to break," Jackson says.

"We've got to break them early," team president Dan Egan explains, so that the necessary adjustments can be made before competition day.

Concrete Canoe

Junior civil engineering major Natalie Buckley applies stenciling to her team's concrete canoe.

Outside the BIC, an enclosed trailer stands ready to take the concrete canoe team's watercraft to Chicago for the American Society of Civil Engineers' yearly competition. With less than an hour left before departure, Natalie Buckley is stenciling the boat's name in white letters across the black hull.

Like the others, the concrete canoe team has taken an innovative approach to this year's vehicle.

"We spent all of fall quarter constructing a mold that we hope to be able to use for many years. The new mold allowed us to have more control over the thickness of the canoe as we were casting it-we managed to get the thickness down to 1 inch," she explains.

The team hopes that the change, which resulted in a lighter vessel, will give them an edge in their competition.

Nearby, the Rose-Hulman Efficient Vehicle (RHEV) team is hustling to get their ethanol-fueled engine running.

"I probably won't sleep much between today and Monday," admits RHEV team president Jacob Rigelman, as he and his teammates work to get their all-new car ready to compete.

Weight reduction was the focus of the team's efforts. The redesign of its vehicle, nicknamed "Double Down," included a significantly lighter carbon fiber unibody with aluminum mounting points.

RHEV Competition Team

RHEV president Jacob Rigelman and teammate Hannah Bailey troubleshoot their vehicle's ethanol-powered engine.

Designing and building the lightweight structure gave team members an opportunity to learn new skills, too.

"We taught a lot of the younger members on the team how to do carbon fiber," Rigelman explains, adding, "we made a whole thermal forming jig-that's how we made our front windshield."

The team was able to shave 30 pounds from the weight of the machine, compared to the previous vehicle. They hope the improvements will make them more competitive, but Rigelman adds that the value lies in the experience, and that each year is a new chance to improve.

"No matter what happens," he says, "a lot of the stuff we've worked on this year will help the team in the future."