A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
May 11, 2006 Volume 36 / Number 8


Engineering Students Win Human Powered Vehicle Competition

Cheering on their teardrop-shaped, red-and-white “trike,” CSU, Chico mechanical engineering students won the coveted Human Powered Vehicle Challenge West Coast Competition April 28–29 at San Luis Obispo over 32 other universities.

CSU, Chico’s three-wheeled recumbent bike—the first three-wheeler to win the competition—hit speeds averaging 45–50 mph while winning the women’s sprint and the endurance race, and coming in second in the men’s sprint and overall design, for a combined first-place score.

The competition, sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), is held annually on the East and West Coasts, though the West Coast event is considered far more competitive. University of Missouri at Rolla—a perennial East Coast winner—entered the West Coast competition and came in second. Portland State University came in third.

Other universities in the 2006 competition included University of Colorado, Texas Tech, Oregon State, Washington State, Colorado State, Northern Illinois, Northern Arizona, UC Riverside, and the Air Force Academy. Six CSU campuses participated, including Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, which hosted the event this year.

Last year, CSU, Chico placed third overall in the competition behind Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and University of Missouri at Rolla, respectively. While CSU, Chico has won numerous individual events during recent competitions, including last year’s endurance race, the University had not won the overall title since 1998.

“ This is a tremendous achievement for our engineering students because it is truly their project,” said Nick Repanich, advisor to the human powered vehicle project. “While faculty are available to advise whenever needed, the students design and build the vehicle themselves—they do it all.” Repanich is an adjunct research professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Mechatronic Engineering, and Manufacturing Technology.

Repanich said many competitors have students build the vehicle in an engineering class, while CSU, Chico students do the work as a club project, under the auspices of the campus ASME chapter. “Eighteen students worked on the project, and they all contributed and all deserve the credit for being champions,” he said. He was also pleased that the CSU, Chico students who pedaled the winning vehicle in the various races were also from the College of Engineering.

Started in 1983, the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge features races of different lengths and different style vehicles. All entries must be powered—in most cases, pedaled—by a person. The engineering challenge for students is to create a high-speed, aerodynamic, maneuverable vehicle powered solely by a human.

Repanich said an important design innovation of recent years is a fairing, or body covering the vehicle to cut air resistance. CSU, Chico’s low-slung, three-wheeled vehicle is almost completely enclosed by a see-through plastic body.

CSU, Chico has a long history of performing well in the HPV competitions. When it won the overall competition in 1987, it set a collegiate speed record of 57.7 mph that held for many years.

—Joe Wills