Future engineers developing cars for Houstonians

For the first time, mechanical engineering technology students will participate in an annual competition that requires them to build human-powered cars that could eventually be used in everyday life.

Students will participate in the annual American Society of Mechanical Engineers Human Powered Vehicle Challenge in Spring 2010. They plan to apply the skills learned at the College of Technology toward designing and constructing a human-powered vehicle.

Since January, seniors Lesley Grimes, Cory Wilden and Carlos Gramajo, who call themselves Team Recumbent, have been developing a vehicle that could suit the needs of a typical Houstonian.

‘We are making a utility vehicle that is practical for everyday use, and by everyday use I mean to go to work, to go to school, to run errands,’ said Grimes, the team’s leader.

Team Recumbent said they will use a recumbent bicycle in its design, because of its beneficial effects on the human body.

‘A rider’s weight is more evenly distributed across the back and buttocks in the recumbent position, and it allows the hands, elbows, neck, and shoulders to stay relaxed,’ Grimes said.

The vehicle will include several features that are present in automobiles, including a rollover protection system, a front bumper, a horn, a visibility flag, headlights, turn indicators and brake lights.

The team has not forgotten about students, as the vehicle will include an insulated compartment and a cargo storage bag.

‘We tried to keep it as versatile as possible,’ Wilden said. ‘If you’re a college student and you want throw your laptop in the back, you can do that. If you’re downtown and you want to throw your papers in the back, you can.’

Team Recumbent and its opponents will undergo a rigorous evaluation that entails a specific criterion. The judging is based on aesthetics, durability, maintenance, versatility and creativity, Gramajo said.

‘That’s 60 percent (of the grade),’ Gramajo said. ‘The other 40 percent is undergoing an obstacle course that simulates a city street.’

The winning team will receive $500 from ASME, but Team Recumbent is motivated by other purposes.

‘Engineers have a certain responsibility to the world, and this competition affords students the chance to solve various issues that plague the world,’ Wilden said.

‘Cycling inherently serves as a means of cutting back on emissions and greenhouse gases, so participating in this event allows engineering students the chance to help the environment.’

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