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For the past five years, Lafayette’s mechanical engineering majors have created a mini-baja off-road vehicle as their senior design project through the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Adam Lichtenberg-Scanlan ’05 (Great Neck, N.Y.) and Shawn Regits ’05 (Bethlehem, Pa.) decided to change all that.

“We wanted to take the senior design project to a whole new level,” Lichtenberg-Scanlan says.

The two did research on a SAE contest involving creation of small, formula-style racecars that will compete May 18-22, 2005, in Pontiac, Mich. The vehicles are judged in the categories of static inspection and engineering design, solo performance trials, and high-performance track endurance. After Regits and Lichtenberg-Scanlan gave a presentation to the other ’05 mechanical engineers last fall, a team of 35-40 students was formed.

“Everyone split up and did research on a small area of the car, like the motor, suspension, and how much wheels would cost,” Scanlan says. “Together we formulated a presentation.”

They gave their presentation to Jeffrey Helm, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Richard Reeman, engineering supervisor. Helm was impressed and agreed to sign on as their unofficial adviser over the summer.

“Once they start on their capstone senior design project, then I am officially their adviser,” he explains.

The students divided into six teams, each focusing on a specific part of the design process: suspension, engine/intake/exhaust, chassis, braking system and uprights, aerodynamics/crushable front bulkhead, and drive train.

The suspension team, which must factor in the type of shocks and size of springs to be used, as well as making the suspension lightweight while maintaining consistent distribution, is led by Dave O’Neill ’05 (Red Bank, N.J.).

He says the students face many challenges along the way, including learning and reading textbooks to gain knowledge of the design process, time limitations, and the fact that this is the first time the project is being attempted at Lafayette.

The engine/intake/exhaust team is led by Jordan Roth ’05 (Woodacre, Calif.) and must consider the brand of motor to use, possible ways to increase horsepower, fuel economy, and muffler restrictions.

Scanlan is leading the chassis team and is focusing on the type of materials needed to produce a rigid structure with the least amount of material, and ergonomics, which focuses on how people will interact most effectively and safely within the frame of the car.

Brad Armstrong’05 (Telford, Pa.) is leading the braking system and uprights team, which is concerned with the two independent braking systems, how to mount rotors and calipers onto uprights, and what size rotor and caliper is needed for the desired performance.

The aerodynamics/crushable front bulkhead team is led by Charise Logan ’05 (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), who also is earning an A.B. degree with a major in international commerce. The group is concentrating on the aesthetics of the car, the material and design of a crushable front structure, and the flow of air around the car, which affects the amount of force the vehicle generates.

Regits is leading the drive train team, which must focus on what type of rear axle will be used, the necessary chain tension and distance, and how to house the differential, which distributes power from the transmission and regulates wheel speed.

The students have been working on the project since spring 2004 and must finish by February.

“We’re three-quarters of the way through making the chassis [the frame of the car] and we’ve purchased the motor,” Scanlan says.

Helm is impressed by the students’ dedication and persistence.

“These students wanted to do this badly enough that they chose to do it knowing some of it wasn’t going to count toward a grade,” he says. “It required them to commit to the project and know it was going to take longer than a year.”

Categorized in: Academic News