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Union’s Human Powered Vehicle Team

This past weekend, Union’s Human Powered Vehicle Team competed against a variety of teams from a number of different colleges and universities at the competition in Gainesville, Florida.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) created the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC) and hosts the competition each year in a variety of locations. The Union team competed at the HPVC East competition in Florida. There was also HPVC West in San Jose, California, HPVC India in Delhi, India and HPVC Latin America in Bogotá, Colombia.

On the website for the competition, it states, “ASME's international Human Powered Vehicle Challenge (HPVC) provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate the application of sound engineering design principles in the development of sustainable and practical transportation alternatives. In the HPVC, students work in teams to design and build efficient, highly engineered vehicles for everyday use—from commuting to work, to carrying goods to market.”

Human powered transport is defined as “the transport of person(s) and/or goods using human muscle power.” Essentially it is a bike that the team designs in an attempt to maximize the speed the vehicle can reach. While the world record for the speed of a human powered vehicle is 83 mph, achieved by a group of Dutch students in 2013, vehicles at the HPVC East competition did not reach nearly that level. Union’s bike this year reached a top speed of 25-30 mph.

The 33-team competition included both a drag race and an endurance race, as well as a group presentation in front of a panel of judges. The team reused the existing frame from the previous year, but added a new fairing, strengthened their frame, and created a display screen of which showed the bike’s speed and distance. The Union team placed third overall in the two and a half hour endurance race, and was selected as the winner of the “Team Spirit Award.” This was due in part to competitor Kadeam Vendryes, who loudly cheered on every team (in a variety of languages) throughout the race. The team also placed 5th in the men’s speed event, and 9th in the women’s.

Team members competing were: T. Dylan Cline '16, Alexander 'Buddy' Pollack '16, Stephen 'Ridge' Smith '15, Kadeam Vendryes '15, and Jennifer Ventrella '16. Jesse Coull '16 and Madeline Samuell '17 were also team members but were unable to travel to Florida due to conflicts. Professor John Spinelli and Professor Frank Wicks accompanied the team to competition. Professor Frank Wicks with this year's advisor, filling in for Professor Ashok Ramasubramanian during his leave. The team received funding from a variety of sources, including a President's Green Grant.

Spinelli spoke highly of the team. “Throughout the weekend, other team's members, parents of other team members and race organizers came up to me to complement the behavior, maturity, spirit and camaraderie of our students,” Spinelli said. “They encouraged and helped other teams, kept a positive outlook under some difficult circumstances, and worked hard as a team in a manner which reflected very well on Union College.”

The team is currently looking for more members to begin designing a new bike for competition. Students from all majors are welcomed and encouraged to join. If interested, please contact Professor Ramasubramanian at

Union ASME HPVC East Team Award photo

Left to right: Alexander Pollack, Kadeam Vendryes, Dylan Cline, Jennifer Ventrella, and Ridge Smith.