UMR students work to solve energy problems during MIT Design Summit

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On September 1, 2006

Fifty students from 21 universities in 13 countries, including two students from the University of Missouri-Rolla, recently returned to their home campuses after participating in a design summit hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

The summit was conceived during a solar car race featuring teams of university students. During a break in the action, a group of students from rival teams had an epiphany of sorts. Why were they competing and keeping secrets from each other when their collective knowledge about alternative energy sources might help solve some big problems?

A few of those students immediately began planning the summer summit at MIT. They wanted to recruit the best talent from the best student design teams in the world.

Jerrod Bouchard and Craig George were recruited from UMR’s Human-Powered Vehicle Team, which has won five straight championships in the United States. Bouchard is a senior in mechanical engineering from Camdenton, Mo. George is a junior in electrical engineering from St. Joseph, Mo.

At MIT, Bouchard and George collaborated with the other students for two months. The 50 students who attended the summit decided to divide into four teams to work on projects. Bouchard and George were assigned to the design summit’s Assisted Human-Powered Vehicle (AHPV) team. Other projects included a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, a biodiesel car and an electric car.

The students were housed in MIT dormitories. Room and board was covered by corporate sponsors.

Working long hours at MIT, the AHPV team — or A-Team as they called themselves — built a recumbent bicycle with an aerodynamic shell that runs on pedaling power or solar power.

“It has 28 gears, three wheels, an electric motor that utilizes solar power, and it’s capable of going 70 mph,” says Bouchard, who barely made it back to Rolla in time for the start of the fall semester.

The vehicle was geared toward the needs of a commuter, but Bouchard says all of the projects were designed to be capable of traveling long distances without the aid of gasoline or diesel fuel.

Not all of the teams were able to finish their projects before the end of summer, but the AHPV team completed nearly every aspect of its vehicle.

“Jerrod and Craig worked longer hours than anyone else on the project,” says Matthew Ritter, a sophomore from Olin College in Massachusetts and one of the summit’s organizers. “They demonstrated terrific resolve and humor. Jerrod nearly collapsed from exhaustion during his final presentation to some of MIT’s highest administrators.”

Back at UMR, Bouchard and George are attending classes and resting up. They plan to help UMR’s HPV team make a run at another championship in 2007.

“UMR’s vehicles, at least on this team, are powered entirely by humans, so we won’t have to worry about solar power or electric motors,” Bouchard says. “But we want to challenge the collegiate HPV speed record, which is 62 mph.”

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On September 1, 2006. Posted in News