A racing team at the University of Missouri-Rolla has a national reputation for engineering some of the best student-built vehicles on the road. But when it’s time for the team to compete, crazy things can happen.
Just ask Whitney Joseph, one of the team’s leaders. “Some vehicles around you are really unstable,” Joseph says, “so you have to steer clear of those. If you crash, you’re out of the competition.”
Sounds like NASCAR, but it isn’t. Joseph and her teammates participate in challenges featuring human-powered vehicles — recumbent bikes with aerodynamic shells. During competitions, teams are judged in sprints, endurance tests, design reports and oral presentations.
The UMR team will travel to two competitions this spring. The West Coast HPV Challenge will be held April 13-15 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The East Coast HPV Challenge is scheduled for May 11-13 at the University of Central Florida.
UMR has won five-straight East Coast championships. Last year, UMR finished second in the West Coast challenge.
The team redesigns its vehicle every year. According to Joseph, the 2007 bike is lighter but more stable, with a higher center of gravity and a more aerodynamic shell.
“There’s a lot of engineering behind it,” Joseph says. “But we’ve already turned in our design report and now we’re focused on the riding and performance.”
The bikes can go about 45 mph, but that can take a lot of human power, especially when pedaling from a seated position.
UMR’s riders include Joseph, a junior in engineering management from O’Fallon, Ill.; Jerrod Bouchard, a senior in mechanical engineering from Camdenton, Mo.; Matt Brown, a senior in mechanical engineering from Rolla; Ben Kettler, a sophomore in electrical engineering from Wentzville, Mo.; and Kyle Rackers, a junior in mechanical engineering from Jefferson City, Mo.
The following are also members of UMR’s 2007 HPV Team:
— Silvey Britton, a freshman in chemical engineering from O’Fallon, Ill.
— Craig George, a junior in electrical engineering from St. Joseph, Mo.
— Alex Hollenbeck, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from O’Fallon, Ill.
— Mike Janaske, a sophomore in nuclear engineering from St. Peters, Mo.
— Whittney Metcalf, a sophomore in peroleum engineering from Ulysses, Kan.
— Cameron Mings, a freshman in mechanical engineering from Glendora, Calif.
— Chris Perry, a sophomore in business and management systems from High Ridge, Mo.
— Daniel Rosner, a sophomore in civil engineering from St. Peters, Mo.
— Daniel Segert, a freshman in metallurgical engineering from Fairview Heights, Ill.
— Eric Sommer, a junior in aerospace engineering from O’Fallon, Mo.
— Andrew Sourk, a junior in aerospace engineering from St. Joseph, Mo.
— Mark Wagner, a senior in mechanical engineering from St. James, NY.
— Greg Wilke, a senior in engineering management from Arnold, Mo.