Forget Disneyworld! We’re Going To MOAB!

Champions celebrate, and there’s lots to celebrate in MinerLand today!
The S&T Human Powered Vehicle team entered yesterday’s ASME 2 1/2-hour endurance race with only a slim hope of victory. Of 17 teams on site, four teams (Rose Hulman, Cal Long Beach, Missouri S&T and Cal Poly) were poised to battle it out in the final race. Powerful and highly-motivated Cal Poly has a comfortable points lead and had only to finish 4th to claim overall victory. And 4th they got.
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The Miners ran a spectacular race with Kronos, a bike that had other teams in awe. Starting rider Jon Sanders blew away all teams, even edging past Cal Poly in a hairpin turn. Kronos’ front shock suspension handled the ramp, speed bump and slalom obstacles with ease, no one could touch him in the turns, and he started to pile up a big lead in the lap count.
And then the landing gear failed. At the mandatory stop sign Jon engaged the landing gear, stopped successfully, and took off again. But the wheels wouldn’t retract and he took a very hard spill in the next turn. Chief engineer Ross Jensen ripped off the damaged canopy, costing S&T aerodynamic advantage and forcing each rider to stop the bike Fred Flintstone-style, letting the other top schools eat into S&T’s lead.
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But follow-on riders Nikia Chapman, Eric Audiffred, Peter Freiberger and Kevin Pence reached deep and gave it everything they had. They either eased ahead in each lap or held tight to the other fast riders’ back wheels and managed to hang on for the endurance victory, satisfied to settle for 2nd place in the overall standings. There was some talk of penalty points, but the Miners knew they did their very best.
And then things changed.
At the award banquet it came down to Missouri S&T and Cal Poly. And the penalty points. Turns out Cal had some racked up some penalties, while S&T ran a clean race! And Cal and S&T were tied!
The tie-breaker? The endurance race, which the Miners held on to WIN!!! Our stunned team was bouncing off walls, and then were even more thrilled to accept the $1,400 top prize. Hours later at a WONDERFUL alumni dinner they were still grinning from ear-to-ear! Still in shock!
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What about Moab? This crews is headed south to do some (what else?) mountain biking in some of Utah’s most rugged and beautiful desert terrain.
Wow. Just WOW!

The REAL Start Of A Human-Powered Race!

The ASME and the University of Utah have been holding an engineering design competition that just happens to have three brutal races at the end.
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The all-important endurance case kicks off with the madcap 15-yard milk-jug sprint (above). In the REAL racing world it’s known as a Le Mans start. The drivers race across the track to their waiting vehicles, all carrying one-gallon water jugs which serve as the “cargo” of the these prototype “utility” vehicles.
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The actual cycling start bears a strong resemblance to the Friday afternoon quitting time at the S&T campus; total chaos, with the slower, but easier-to-mount trikes leading the way, followed by the “fast movers” of Cal Poly, Rose Hulman, S&T, and even the bamboo-framed bike.
The 2 1/2-hour long endurance race becomes a war of attrition, and not all cycles make it to the end. Crashes and breakdowns play havoc with the 17 teams involved. The best place for NASCAR-style crash fans is at the mandated stop sign. If your landing gear fails it is a near certainty that you will fall over on your side.
The good news? In the judges’ eyes, falling on your side IS considered a full and complete stop.

Lucky Elmo Socks, And A Screaming Performance

ElmoSUN_3474.jpgOh, was it cold, windy and cloudy this morning!
People were huddled in cars or dressed in as many sweatshirts as they could find, but it was Nikia Chapman and Jon Sanders that brought the heat, as bothMiners tore through the double-elimination heats like a hot knife, well, you get <img alt="YellSUN_3554.jpg" src="http://experiencethis.mst.edu/YellSUN_3554.jpg" width="450" height="276" class="mt-image-right"/ the idea.
Kronos’ lower profile handled the cross winds with little difficulty, and that mean more forward power instead of wobbling down the straight away. Nikia had a secret weapon>that the judges didn’t notice, her Lucky Elmo Socks. She was so pumped that by the time she returned to the start line she wasn’t even breathing hard. But she sure was screaming!Did we mention screaming? Well, there was some rather colorful screaming, and who knew Nikia could yell so loud?
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When she lined up against Cal Poly in the drag race championship match Niki blasted off the line so fast she lost track of her competitor. She flew down the track and shot past the finish line, but when someone yelled “Cal Poly crashed!”, spectators couldn’t believe how loud the swearing was that came out of Kronos’ hard shell. Nikia was livid that she hadn’t beaten Cal Poly’s best effort, and before she even got out of the bike was shouting for a rematch.
ASME officials figured the safest choice was to give Nikia what she wanted, so a special “bragging rights” race was quickly added to the day’s schedule. And this time, there was no crash, and she was (Whew!) satisfied.
Tomorrow is another story. It’ll still be cold, but roughly 16 bikes and trikes will run a 2 1/2 hour endurance race on a .9 mile course that has lots of turns. And that means lots of crashes.
Scoring? The Miners took 5th in design, 1st in mens’ and women’s drag races, and Jon tells us that “we can win this thing if we win the endurance race and Cal Poly finishes no higher than 3rd place.”
And Nikia? If she goes “screaming” around the track it’ll probably unnerve most other teams, so she should establish a mighty lead for Missouri S&T.
The big question? Will they be able to pry her cold, stiff fingers from the handlebars so S&T’s male riders can get in at least one lap each?
The rest of the team (except for Jon) went to see the new Avengers movie. And Jon? Back at the hotel taking an exam.
G’nite, Gentle Readers!

Going In Drag. Races.

Yep, it’s straight-line drag racing today. Ross Jensen managed to repair KRONOS’ landing gear yesterday, so all seems well with the bike.
Here’s a smattering of thoughts about this team’s experiences/observations………..
Think this valley is pretty during the day? You should see it under the biggest full moon of the year. Spectacular!
When Nikia Chapman had a bad wreck at the east coast races her arm swelled up badly and her teammates couldn’t roll up her sleeve enough to assess her injury. When the EMT folks showed up and said “we’ll have to cut it off!”, Nikia panicked. She thought they meant her arm.
We overheard a comment yesterday that an old man in khakis and a matching photographer’s vest looks absolutely “adorable”. Hmmph. Sounds like the desert sun is messing with someone’s mind.
The Bonneville Salt Flats are just an hour west of here. You think the Miners aren’t drooling over the chance to run Kronos on the famous flats? There’s a lot of free time built into this event, so who knows what kind of trouble this group can get in to?
Winds may be a problem on tomorrow’s track race. The nearly one-mile-long kart track is very technical, which means LOTS of turns, very few straight stretches.
Ultimately, this is all about education, and as we like to say, there’s a lot more to engineering than just engineering. Stashed in the team trailer are tool boxes, luggage, and a slew of mountain bikes. On the way home they’ll visit Arches National Park and go off-road biking is some of the most beautiful and rugged scenery this planet has to offer.
And if that isn’t a wonderful experience, nothing is.

Ocean View, Cool Breezes, Snow-Capped Mountains, And A Magnificent Motorsports Park

Life just doesn’t get any better than this!
The University of Utah is hosting the ASME Human Powered Vehicle West Coast event at Miller Motorsports Park, located in a broad valley about 30 miles west of Salt Lake City. To our north lies the Great Salt Lake (OK, it’s not an ocean but it IS salt water) spreading out toward distant peaks. To the east, a line of snow-tipped mountains juts from the valley floor. The western panorama is a lower mountain ridge partially obscured by clouds.
Just 100 yards to the south is the biggest automotive road course in the U.S., now occupied by a dozen or so brand new Ford Mustangs with middle-aged students learning performance driving. Over by the main gate Utah Highway Patrol officers are going through motorcycle training. They drive like a bunch of Shriners in a parade, but with fabulous-looking motorcycles and MUCH better-looking uniforms.
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The track press room from which this story emanates commands a spectacular view of the grandeur, making it very tough for the lonely S&T student sitting just 10 feet away, taking his linear algebra final exam. Road trips are great, but grades come first.
UPDATE: The Mustangs are gone, and the track has been turned over to a ominous-looking Lemans Type II Prototype car. Sources tell us it’s owned by a prominent Hollywood actor and it’s the first time the car has turned a wheel, so we are in pretty good company. And it’s driving the exam-taker NUTS!

We Return You Now To Our Regular Programming

S&T’s Human Powered Vehicle team has arrived at Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park, and is busy with transponder testing. They’ll soon register, go through vehicle inspection, chat with the other teams, and end up at tonight’s social event.
Anecdotes and photos to follow.

Join A Design Team And See The World!

It’s final exams* week, but that’s not keeping the S&T Human Powered Vehicle Team from their tour of the Great Plains.
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A couple of hours ago they crossed into Wyoming en route to Tooele, Utah for the ASME west coast event, where they hope to become co-national champions**. Rose-Hulman won the east coast event in a real squeaker, by just 1.1 points, so let’s hope for a little good-natured payback for our friends in Indiana.
Jon Sanders and Nikia Chapman did report a pair of most unusual topographical features alongside the interstate. Identical, low ancient hills that resembled pancakes topped by small, stubby cell phone towers. These massive protrusions were obviously worn down through the ages by the prairie winds and overgrazing.***
*These students didn’t skip their exams. At least one final exam, kept in a remote, secret location, will follow them to the competition site. And no, the U.S. Secret Service is NOT involved!
**Is there such a thing as co-national champs? Don’t know, but it sounds good.
***If you rock hounds want more geological details, you’ll have to talk to the team yourself.

The Irony Is Not Lost On Us……….

Design team students learn from their professors, machinists, classmates, and even (heaven forbid!) SDELC staff members.
And they even learn from their competitors.
Word comes to us from the ASME-sponsored Human Powered Vehicle Competition in the arctic tundra of western Pennsylvania, that inter-team influences are alive and well.
S&T wowed the 2011 event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a gleaming paint job, innovative technology and a great design report, and that influence is obvious.
This year more teams are mimicking S&T’s 2011 landing gear design, and stepping up their aesthetic efforts in what amounts to building a prototype for developing markets. Ironically, S&T’s bike has been stripped of custom paint jobs, reduced in size, and taken back to a more value-driven approach.
So, what’s the big deal? None, really. It’s just that other teams’ entries are looking more and more like S&T’s earlier designs, while the Miners are heading in the other direction, with Kronos bearing a striking resemblance to the other teams’ entries of yore.
Doesn’t matter. All that counts is who takes home the bragging rights. And the Miners are determined to bring their 3rd national championship back to Rolla.

Temps In The Mid 20s! Let’s Go For A Bike Ride!

It’s supposed to hit 90 degrees today at the SAE Aero event just north of Atlanta, and that really irritates S&T’s famed Human Powered Vehicle Team.
They are waking up to below-freezing temperatures for the all-important endurance race, which, as is often the case, will decide whether S&T or Rose Hulman Institute of Technology takes home the big trophy.
It’s not just about riding/racing. Ross Jensen’s innovative carbon-fiber began to show some stress cracks yesterday, so the Miners built a spare out of steel. How on earth……..?
Well, the good folks at Grove City College (PA) turned the Miners loose overnight, ALL night, in the school’s machine shop, that’s how! That kind of hospitality is de rigueur in student design competitions. Helps to make all teams successful, but tends to slow down students’ speech patterns and coherency the next afternoon.
(ed. They’re young, they’ll get over it.)
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In the meantime Nikia Chapman took second in female drag races, using a monster effort to overcome a bearing failure, and Jon Sanders dominated the men’s races.
RHIT won top design honors with Toronto, Olin College and S&T close behind. After the first day’s racing the Miners are in second place overall, so that’s how the endurance races will make all the difference.

And From Up North We Hear………

That S&T’s Human Powered Vehicle Team is doing well.
Screaming down the street by pedal power seems to be a very bonding experience. “All the teams are happy to see each other again,” says Miner Jon Sanders. “Things seem even friendlier than in recent years.”
And yes, it was tech inspection today, and Jon thinks the design scoring could be snatched by powerful Toronto, S&T, Rose Huhlman, or even up-and-coming Olin College. “Dashiell Moore and I did well in the design presentation” Jon related, “but the east coast seems to becoming the stronger of the two ASME events, so it’s anybody’s game.”
S&T’s flashy 2011 Titan, made a big impression, because more teams are showing up with sophisticated “landing gear”, and some of the upper echelon schools are stepping up their paint jobs to keep pace with what S&T stunned everyone with last year.
The Miners have scaled back the weight, cost, and flashy paint scheme of the 2011 bike, and Kronos passed the braking test just fine. They did have a bearing work loose on their innovative carbon-fiber chassis boom, but that’s back under control.
Tonight? Supposed to be 29 degrees but dinner with the University of Toronto team should warm things up.
Tomorrow? Sprints and double-elimination drag races.
Photos when we get ’em.