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Union team charges ahead with Chester’s Chariot in engineering challenge


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A team of five mechanical engineering students brought home a second place trophy in endurance and finished ninth place overall with its custom-built “Chester’s Chariot” in the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge East sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

The Union students joined teams from 36 institutions around the world in designing and constructing a fully human powered vehicle that can be used as a model for use in underdeveloped countries and other parts of the world where modern means of transportation are not an option.

The ASME event was held in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month.

Teams design their vehicles for high efficiency and a minimum speed of 35 miles per hour. The endurance event is judged on how many laps the vehicle and its riders can finish in an allotted time (2.5 hours), with a track size of 1.85 kilometers.

Chester’s Chariot was built using 4130 steel tubing, a lightweight fairing and commercially available drivetrain components. A solar panel provides power to the front headlight and the rear taillight through a USB.

“We created a custom vehicle based on feedback from the previous team,” said Marjorie Chee ’14, team captain. “Chester’s Chariot weighs 52 pounds, less than half of last year’s vehicle. We also have a smaller turning radius, so we had no problem maneuvering tight turns, and we optimized our gear set to include more high gears.”

Chee and teammates Zacarie Hertel ’14 and John Lombardi ’14 worked on the vehicle as their senior project. Also participating were Melissa Mansfield ’14 and Jesse Coull ’16.

Ashok Ramasubramanian, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was the project’s adviser. Paul Tompkins, a technician in the Engineering Machine Lab, welded the fairing, frame and mounts, including brakes and derailleurs.

The goal of this year’s team was produce an efficient, sustainable and practical human powered vehicle with a high degree of safety.

During fall term, the team spent all 10 weeks designing, applying for funding and purchasing parts. They received a College Green Grant as well as travel and student research grants, and funding from the Mechanical Engineering Department and Engineering Competition.

In the winter, the students assembled the vehicle and conducted a range of tests, including gear ratio analysis, beam bending analysis and aerodynamic analysis using computational and analytical methods, as well as physical testing.

“Our many safety features along with our engineering analyses give us high confidence in the ability of Chester’s Chariot to perform at a competitive level,” Chee said. “The tadpole tricycle design represents an extremely stable, yet intuitive human powered vehicle.”

This was Union’s third year participating in the challenge. In addition to its second-place endurance recognition, Union placed seventh in the design category, 13th in men's speed, 18th in innovation and 21st in women’s speed.

The team will present Chester’s Chariot during Steinmetz Symposium May 9.