CSU, Chico News

Engineering Students Design and Build Human Powered Vehicle

Date: 08-27-2009

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Trevor Prater
Public Relations Intern
The Institute for Sustainable Development

In an effort to bring ecologically friendly modes of transportation to the Chico community, a team of eight mechanical engineering students have designed, built and tested a vehicle powered solely by human energy. The project was designed as a collaborative effort between the Mechanical Engineering Program and the Center for Entrepreneurship at California State University, Chico.

Supervised by faculty advisor Greg Watkins, the engineering team (composed of Lindsay Leahy, Jeff Croshal, Aaron Brooks, Josh Pasos, Brent Locklin, Thaddeus Barry, Kyle Hartlet and Stacey Cubillo) exhibited their prototype at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Human Powered Vehicle Competition in Portland, Ore., placing in the top three in vehicle design. At the competition the aerodynamically designed vehicle competed in speed and endurance tests and was judged in maneuverability, practicality and design efficiency.

Not exactly a bicycle, the Human Powered Utility Vehicle is fully enclosed and operates with two wheels in front and one in back. The operator uses a joystick in each hand to shift, brake and steer, while pedaling to provide energy.

The main purpose of the project was to design and build a human powered vehicle that would compete with commuter bicycles on the market today. With most bikes of similar design selling for over $3,000, the student engineers and entrepreneurs built a pedal-powered prototype that could theoretically sell for half the price. The Human Powered Utility Vehicle was built with the mechanical integrity of a vehicle—considerations such as reliability, safety and efficiency were paramount throughout the manufacture and design process.

“Chico is a very bicycle-oriented community,” said project member Lindsay Leahy. “We saw a market for pedal-powered commuter vehicles in the Chico Community and decided to develop a prototype in order to explore the feasibility of bringing a less-costly version to Chico.”

The project was awarded funding through the Associated Students Sustainability Fund, paid for by the Associated Students and managed by the Institute for Sustainable Development at CSU, Chico. Over $80,000 a semester is awarded through this fund to students who are dedicated to executing and improving sustainable practices at California State University, Chico and in the surrounding community.