Montana State University

Human Powered Vehicle Challenge comes to Bozeman

May 9, 2011 -- Melynda Harrison, MSU News Service

Members of MSU's Human Powered Vehicle Competition team and their bike, the ThunderCat. Left to right: Nick Svinicki, Brian Mayernik, Kiki Fischer, Ryan Harris, Brandon Buerkle and, on the bike, Mike Bly. Team members not pictured are: Mark Mehlhaff and Cara Duberstein (MSU photo by Tyler Busby)    High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
This weekend, engineering students from Montana State University, will lead a field of 18 collegiate teams in the 2011 ASME Human Powered Vehicle Challenge, May 13-15. The three-day event will feature highly engineered "super bikes" in a series of races and challenges down Garfield Ave. and around the Montana State University campus as engineering students put their pedal powered prototypes to the test.

For the first time, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers event will be held in Montana, hosted by Montana State University. It is the sixth time an MSU team is competing in the event. The event includes a design review, sprint events, a utility vehicle endurance competition and a speed endurance event. Teams from the U.S., India and Egypt, will be among the 150 engineering students expected to participate.

"After traveling all over the west to compete in past years, we are excited to be holding the competition here at MSU," said Chris Jenkins, MSU mechanical and industrial engineering department head and advisor to the MSU team.

The MSU vehicle design was developed by mechanical engineering and mechanical engineering technology students as part of their senior capstone project. The capstone project is the culminating project of a student's studies that incorporates much of what they learned in their previous coursework.

"We are excited to be building on an impressive multi-disciplinary capstone design project and look forward to the endless possibilities awaiting us through this experience," Jenkins said.

During the fall of 2010, students developed a design based off the previous year's model. This spring, they manufactured, assembled and tested their design. A total of 12 students worked on the project over the two semesters.

Kiki Fischer, a senior mechanical engineering student from Hamilton, has been part of the project since its inception.

"We liked the dynamic, natural aspects of last year's design, but wanted to improve on it," Fischer said.

The MSU team's vehicle is a tricycle and the rider leans to one side or the other to steer it, rather than using handlebars. The back wheels are mounted to a skateboard truck to allow the leaning movement.

"We'd like to really show off our stuff since we have the home court advantage," Fischer said. "Having an innovative idea is more important than winning, but it would be nice to win, too."

While creating a fast, strong vehicle has been fun, Fischer said the learning process was more important than the end result.

"We learned the importance of teamwork and communication, and working with people with different academic backgrounds," Fischer said. "There was a pretty big learning curve, but a hands-on project like this is a lot more fun than sitting at a desk."

HPVC 2001 schedule of events

Saturday May 14, 2011
Sprint event - Garfield Street, heading east - 8 a.m. -12 p.m.
Utility endurance event - MSU campus - 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

Sunday May 15, 2011
Speed endurance event - MSU campus - 8-11 a.m.
Awards banquet - Grantree Hotel - 12-3 p.m.

The complete schedule of events can be downloaded here:

Montana State University students rode away with several awards at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Human Powered Vehicle Challenge held on the MSU campus last weekend.

The MSU ThunderCat team fought two days of intense wind to an impressive finish and five awards in the speed vehicle class, including second place in design, first place women's sprint, first place men's sprint, first place endurance race and first place overall.

"The ASME's international Human Powered Vehicle Challenge provided an opportunity for students to demonstrate the application of sound engineering design principles in the development of sustainable and practical transportation alternatives," said Chris Jenkins, MSU mechanical and industrial engineering department head and adviser to the MSU team. "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, to fast-paced recreation."

Chris Jenkins at 406-994-2203 or