Human powered vehicle team gains momentum

By MAKENZIE HUBER Editor-in-Chief

The South Dakota State Human Powered Vehicle Challenge Team has established itself among other teams at prominent engineering schools.

After just three years as an organization, the team placed third for overall best vehicle at their most recent competition against schools such as California University Northridge, University of California – Berkeley and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. They also earned first in the men’s speed race and third for innovation.

This recognition helps “put SDSU on the map” for its quality engineering program, said Jake Ostby, senior mechanical engineering major and team captain.

“We became a team that people are now looking to see what we’re doing, checking to see what we’re up to,” Ostby said.

The team competed at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Engineering Festivals (ASME E-Fests) West, an intensive three-day competition in Las Vegas, Nevada, March 17 through March 19. They showed off their craft and innovation behind the design of their bike, participated in sprint races split between men’s and women’s competitions, and competed in a two-and-a-half-hour endurance race.

The purpose of both the competition and the team is to allow engineers to put their skills to the test, said Brennen Walley, treasurer and senior mechanical engineering major.

“For us, the main reason it was started at SDSU was to help put students’ engineer skills to use and get them that real-life experience,” Walley said. Walley no longer rides, but still attended the competition for team support.

The members take great pride in not only their awards, but their product as well. The bike they created, The Black Jack, helped them earn the craftsmanship award in Las Vegas.

Team members regularly visit their shop in the Architecture, Mathematics and Engineering building to work on The Black Jack, improving simple things to make it look better or ride smoother.

“When we got back from Vegas we made a list of things that needed to be done to the bike, just things like fine tuning, making it better here and there, cutting some weight in some areas,” Walley said. “Now it’s just to the bottom of that list and the last few things to work on.”

Darrin Zomer, team seceratary and a senior mechanical engineering major, estimates he’s working on the bike between 20 to 30 hours a week.

“Too much,” Zomer said about the amount of time he dedicated to the project.

Right now the team is using the last week until their next competition to make their team a stronger contender.

The next competition is at the ASME E-Fests East, where they’ll compete April 21 through April 23 at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee.

All three team members expect harder competition with the more experienced teams in Tennessee. But they “always like a good competition,” Zomer said.