For members of the human-powered vehicle Creative Inquiry team, September means scouring the recently published American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) competition guidelines and the beginning of a two-semester, high-intensity vehicle build project. Each spring, ASME hosts a nationwide competition for engineering programs to develop a vehicle entirely powered by a human. While the thoughts of a human-powered vehicle may invoke images of a Fred Flintstone-esque rudimentary car for some, do not make this mistake. Over twenty members strong, this Creative Inquiry combines some of the best mechanical engineering students Clemson University has to offer to produce a cutting edge, innovative design capable of ranging from carrying groceries to endurance racing.
While bicycles and other human-powered vehicles have existed for ages, developing a human-powered vehicle capable of performing alongside modern vehicles presents some obvious challenges, especially when taking into consideration the human body can only produce fractions of a horsepower. The design of the vehicle is critical and is one of the most rewarding aspects of the Creative Inquiry for many team members. Senior mechanical engineering major, Alex Whitman, explained, “The design aspect of creating a system has been very beneficial. This [Creative Inquiry] offers the chance to apply the analysis techniques we learn in class, add them to a design and make them come to fruition.” Everything from the ergonomics, to the weight, to the cargo space of the vehicle must be taken into account to be successful in competition.
“The design, fabrication and testing of the HPVC is 100% student-driven. They have the free reign to explore wild ideas and technologies but are often tamed by practical manufacturing.”
At the heart of every successful project is a dedicated team working to propel the project forward. This Creative Inquiry allows students to pick a specific aspect of the design they are interested in and dedicate their time to that system of the vehicle. In doing so, students are able to work in small design teams on their respective systems, specialize in their field and collaborate with other system groups. While this system interface may be one of the more challenging aspects of the build, the teamwork and communication required for the build help prepare the students for both success in college and in their future careers. For advisor Dr. Gregory Mocko, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, this Creative Inquiry provides the perfect blend of creativity with practicality, as well as incorporating the thrill of competition. “The design, fabrication and testing of the HPVC is 100% student-driven. They have the free reign to explore wild ideas and technologies but are often tamed by practical manufacturing. The HPVC Creative Inquiry provides students with the opportunity to challenge and expand their engineering knowledge, get their hands dirty with hands-on design activities and have fun,” Mocko said.
With global interests in lowering dependence on fossil fuels and unlocking new energy sources, the Human-Powered Vehicle
Creative Inquiry team brings us back to the original power plant, the human body. By utilizing engineering prowess and technical savvy, members of the team accept the challenge of human-powered vehicles and stretch the limits of vehicle design. With the right combination of innovation, design and teamwork, this team is sure to find success in not only competition, but also in developing skills and understanding in the field.