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Student news - A weekend of success for UW-Madison engineering teams

The University of Wisconsin-Madison formula car concrete canoe, and steel bridge teams excelled in competitions the weekend of April 25-27.

The UW-Madison Formula SAE team raced to first place at the inaugural Virginia International Raceway competition April 23-26. This was the first Formula SAE event to incorporate a road course that included significant elevation changes.

The UW-Madison team, which received funding from the United Wisconsin Grain Producers, piloted its one-third-scale Indy-style car to victory while awing the spectators with unmatchable lap times. The car was the only vehicle of 43 at the competition to run on E85 fuel.

In addition to winning the overall event, the team captured first place in autocross, endurance, sales and design. The team will travel to the world championship at the Michigan International Speedway in May. Its advisor is Mechanical Engineering Faculty Associate Glenn Bower.

Concrete Canoe

The Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge Teams earned resounding victories at the ASCE Great Lakes regional competition, April 25-27.

Concrete Canoe Team

The UW-Madison Concrete Canoe Team is the reigning world champion, after its international win in the Netherlands last August. This year, the UW-Madison team won every race at the regional competition, hosted by the University of Evansville, Indiana. Eleven teams competed in the women’s endurance, men’s endurance, women’s sprint, men’s sprint and co-ed sprint races.

“The team is really well rounded,” says co-chair Dave Blodgett, a civil and environmental engineering student who says the team is made up of students from multiple engineering fields. “The different disciplines used their unique knowledge and skill set to increase the breadth and depth of this year’s canoe, technical paper and presentation.”

The UW-Madison canoe, named Buckingham after the UW-Madison mascot Bucky Badger, is 19 feet, 10 inches by 29 inches and features a 5-foot concrete inlay of Bucky Badger on the outside of the canoe. Black concrete badger prints also run the length of the canoe’s interior.

The canoe will make its next appearance at the national competition in Montreal, Canada, June 19-21. The team’s advisor is Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Chin Wu.

The UW-Madison Steel Bridge Team also boasted a win at the University of Evansville with a construction time of 7.825 minutes, significantly faster than the next best construction time of about 13 minutes by the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Additionally, the UW-Madison team designed the most economical bridge with an estimated cost of a little more than $2 million.

Steel Bridge co-chair Alex Pschorr, a civil engineering student, attributes the team’s success to practice. “We practiced our run dozens of times and some of the other schools were putting theirs together for the first or second time, so that is why we were so much faster,” he says.

The Steel Bridge Team will travel to the University of Florida-Gainesville for the national competition May 23-24. Last year, the team placed third. Its advisor is College of Engineering Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Steve Cramer.

2008 Human Powered Vehicle competition

At home in Madison, the Human Powered Vehicle team hosted the three-day regional ASME Human Powered Vehicle Challenge. Twenty-four teams from around the country—and one from Venezuela—brought a variety of bicycle-like vehicles to courses set up around the Madison area.

Some of the vehicles resembled eggs or boats, while others looked more like traditional bicycles. The yellow UW-Madison bike is similar to a Baja vehicle and is powered by the driver’s hands and arms—unlike most teams, which had leg-powered vehicles.

The competition consisted of three races, including a 100 meter sprint race, 65 kilometer endurance race and a utility race, held in various locations in the Madison area. Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Human Powered Vehicle faculty adviser Frank Pfefferkorn says ASME and the judges offered “heaps of praise” for the committee of team members who organized the event.

“Despite the less-than-perfect weather on Saturday, they loved the courses that we chose and the race on Sunday was one of the most fun endurance races in many years,” says Pfefferkorn. “I believe the competition was a resounding success.”

— Sandra Knisely

Sandra Knisely
5/1/2008