Published: Dec. 14, 2021 By

The ME Course Column is a recurring publication about the unique classes and labs that mechanical engineers can take while at the University of Colorado Boulder. Follow the series to understand the core curriculum, discover elective course options and learn the broad applications of mechanical engineering skills.

From bicycles and scooters to mock race cars and firetrucks, drill-powered vehicles built by Component Design students zoomed around Kittredge Pond this fall for the first time since the pandemic began.

The Component Design Runoff returned on Dec. 8, outside of the Idea Forge, with many Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty, staff and students all in attendance. Everyone was excited to see the event back on campus.

“It was really great to have the drill-powered vehicle runoff back after a three-semester hiatus,” Professor Derek Reamon said. “Huge thanks to all the folks at the Idea Forge who helped the student teams design, build and test their vehicles.”

The runoff is the final project for upper-level students, mostly juniors, taking MCEN 3025: Component Design. The course focuses on the theory and application of mechanical components – subjects like material properties, fatigue conditions and component design parameters.

At the end of the semester, student teams are tasked with using those concepts to build their own drill-powered vehicle to compete in the runoff. The functionality, aesthetics, safety and performance of the vehicle are all judged to determine the winning team.

The team ‘Mad Max’ won the Design Achievement Award at the fall 2021 runoff. The drill-powered vehicle was low to the ground, with two small front wheels and one larger wheel in the back. As the team’s name suggests, the vehicle was inspired by the movie Mad Max.

Each team also competed in at least one of three races during the fall 2021 runoff – the Hill Climb, the Maneuverability Challenge or the Endurance Challenge.

Each race required the vehicles to have certain features. In the Hill Climb, the vehicles rode down a hill, then needed to come to a full stop before climbing back up the hill. The most successful vehicles in that challenge emphasized braking, high torque and load carrying capabilities. ‘Bike Bandits’ won that race with a time of 1 minute and 6 seconds.

The Maneuverability Challenge called for successful steering and braking designs to complete a slalom course, drive through a tunnel and finish with two tight U-turns.  The team ‘Brushless’ completed that race in 39 seconds to win the challenge.

Finally, in the Endurance Challenge, the teams circled a 1,100 ft. racecourse as many times as possible within 30 minutes. Teams were out of the race when the vehicle came to a stop or when the driver touched the ground. Students were not allowed to change the drill battery during the race, so they needed low weight and efficient vehicle designs. The team that won this challenge was ‘Chain Gang,’ who completed 14 laps in all.

Header image: Team 'Mad Max' wins the Design Achievement Award.