Designed for speed

Ferris among 24 colleges from 20 states represented at Human Powered Vehicle Challenge

BIG RAPIDS – Pedaling in little pods, balanced on two or three wheels and streamlined to reach speeds as high as 50 miles per hour, hundreds of college students from across the country gathered in Big Rapids this weekend for the 30th annual Human Powered Vehicle Challenge.

UP FOR THE CHALLENGE: A variety of vehicles were entered in the ASME Human Powered Vehicle Challenge. Drivers pedal the vehicles, which were judged on speed, endurance, design and innovation. (Pioneer photos/Lauren Fitch)

Ferris State University students were among the 24 teams from 20 different states that participated in the three-day American Society of Mechanical Engineers competition. Friday brought an inspection of safety features and design judging. On Saturday, teams competed in drag races at Roben-Hood Airport, and Sunday consisted of a 2.5-hour long endurance race around campus.

In their highest overall finish in recent years, Ferris took sixth. The team placed fifth in design judging, fifth in innovation judging, ninth in both men’s and women’s drag races, and 12th in endurance. They also received a sportsmanship award for giving a part from one of their old vehicles to another team that needed it.

“This is our best one so far,” senior Tyler Prim said of the vehicle on Saturday. “It’s definitely the lightest. It’s the nicest looking we’ve had and the fastest.”

TOUGH COMPETITION: Human Powered Vehicle Challenge competitors line up for the drag races. The three-day competition judged vehicles on design, innovation, drag racing and endurance racing. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers runs the competition, which was held at Ferris State University this year.

The 15-member team from Ferris worked all school year to complete their $5,000 aluminum vehicle, complete with headlights, blinkers, a siren and an adjustable crank for the pedals to accommodate drivers’ different heights.

“In the last semester, it’s a lot of all-nighters,” said senior Tyler Prim. “We all meet once a week, and then people do work on different parts of the bike.”

One focus for this year’s vehicle was to make it as aesthetically pleasing as some of the bigger schools with bigger budgets for the project. Placing fifth in design with a 9.75 score out of 10 in aesthetics, the Ferris team met their goal.

Eric Demerath, president of the Ferris group, and Andy Gierz led in designing the vehicle.

“It was one of our goals this year to be even with the top teams, even though they have more to spend on it than us,” said Ferris senior Beth Patterson, who raced in the women’s division of the drag races.

In the 450-meter drag races, Charles Adams, a sophomore who raced in the men’s division for Ferris, broke 30 miles per hour. Two vehicles at a time raced each other, and the top 16 advanced to a double-elimination tournament.

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