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RHEV Team Relies on Cross-Disciplinary Expertise

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
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Going for super-high mileage, this team tackles challenges using an arsenal of ideas and expertise.

Sometimes, only an electrical engineer will do. The Rose-Hulman Efficient Vehicle Team, like other competition teams, relies on its members’ diverse specialties to solve problems as they arise. “Every major is welcome on our team,” said senior Cameron Sheehan, RHEV president. He credits EE students “for their help in making the required electrical diagrams and the installation of a joulemeter which we were required to implement this year.” While eight of 13 members are mechanical engineering majors, the team also comprises three EEs and one each in computer science and biomedical engineering.

That broad portfolio of skills comes in handy at competitions, where sudden malfunctions or technical inspections can require swift adaptations. “There are always surprises that come up at technical inspections,” said Sheehan. “These challenges push the team’s creativity and on-the-spot design practices. We handle these challenges one at a time as they come to us and I was very impressed by my fellow team members’ ability to work through all of them.”

New to this year’s vehicle is a two-speed, belt-driven transmission, replacing the single-speed, gear-and-chain drive. According to advisor Sean Moseley, associate professor of mechanical engineering, the fixed gear ratio presented a trade-off: high efficiency with no need to change gears, but starting from a standstill proved difficult. Other changes to this year’s vehicle include tweaks to the front suspension and the steering controls.

Time management is always a challenge for complex engineering projects. “One of the major lessons we got from this year was the importance of deadlines and testing,” said Sheehan. “I feel that if we were more committed to our deadlines we could have foreseen and prevented the eventual damage to our body that we suffered at competition.” The structural failure prevented RHEV from completing the annual Shell Eco-Marathon Americas event in Detroit May 1.

Like Sheehan, Moseley sees the inevitable challenges of competition as valuable experience. “For the student leadership there’s a lot of project management and team management—supervising other engineers—that they learn,” he said. “The team members get to apply their learning from their classes to a real scenario that’s not idealized. They’ve got to figure out how to make it work.”