From HPVC Design to Prototype

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Velomóvil RS is a Mexican team from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Our mission is the integral development of student’s skills through the design of a prototype to compete in the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge. Every year we recruit a new team to work on a new vehicle for the next E-Fest.

Our season usually begins when we return to Mexico City from an E-Fest. We start analyzing the achievements and failures in the year. Then, reviewing what other teams have done and finding ways to improve, we strive to solve mistakes and develop new features.

During the entire design process, the team has weekly meetings. We receive constant recommendations from former team members, professors, and even sponsors. They train us in manufacturing processes and using software. This way our design evolves constantly.

We invest six months just in the design phase, including prototypes, cost estimations, supplies, analysis, and developmental testing. That allows us to manufacture the vehicle in four weeks with just 11 people.

Something very characteristic about our design is how economical it is. Due to a limited budget and an expensive journey to E-Fest, we try to be creative in reducing the cost of the vehicle without decreasing quality. Our last prototype cost $2,364 and our innovation $60.

Attending E-Fest represents to us a challenge. Travelling to USA not only implies going to a foreign country where another language is spoken, but it also requires facing immigration procedures. In past years, some of our members couldn’t make it to E-Fest because visas were not approved. Another big difficulty is sending our prototype to the host city; it represents a lot of money, logistics, and dealing with airlines. Sometimes we had shipment damages, and we have the constant fear of arriving at the destination airport only to find our baggage (with prototype and tools) is lost.

This year also we had a challenging problem. Five hours before design and innovation report submissions closed, there was an earthquake in Mexico City. We had our reports ready but not submitted; our university was closed due to inspections. Many parts of the city did not have electrical power and traffic was paralyzed. Two hours before the deadline, we arrived at one of our teammate’s house with electrical power restored, we did a last check and submitted the reports just a few minutes before deadline. Our hearts were exploding. Thanks to the labor we invested in the report, writing it since the design phase begins, we were able to do quick revisions and submit on time.

Despite the problem, the E-Fest West 2018 experience was awesome. We were surprised with the team spirit between the universities, especially when we talked with other competitors about their experiences and prototypes. We were also surprised with solidarity from other teams, especially the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which helped us weld some parts before the endurance race.

For us, the work the judges put in this year was very important. Their continuous feedback in the design presentation, safety inspection, and later by email was very helpful.

Finally, thanks to the Latin American community in California for the support, inviting us to their homes to have meals and taking pictures with us.

For us, competing in E-Fest represents getting out of our comfort zone and sharing our knowledge and ideas. That’s why we expect to participate again next year.

Contributed by the students of the Velomóvil RS team.