Electric Vehicle Race Sparks Interest at PCC

Each year, juniors in the mechanical engineering concentration take two machine design classes that teach them the design process and develop their abilities as designers. But when students signed up for Machine Design II this semester, they never expected to not only design and build but also race a single-rider electric vehicle.

PCC faculty member Steve Manciagli initiated the electric vehicle project this year to give his students the opportunity to create lightweight, aerodynamic vehicles that met dimensional, safety, and performance specifications. At the beginning of the school year, he divided his students into Team A and Team B, then challenged them each to build a 3-wheel vehicle with an aluminum frame. After the vehicles were constructed and tested, the students took them for two 15-minute preliminary runs. Days later, the final competition took place in the Crowne Centre parking lot.

During two 30-minute runs, Mr. Manciagli graded each team’s performance: “We tested turning radius, braking distance, and endurance. Speed was a factor, but the goal was to go as far as possible in one hour.” Although Team B created a vehicle that was built for speed—going up to 30 mph—mechanical malfunctions resulted in only 55.5 laps. Team A’s reliable, trouble-free vehicle totaled 58.75 laps. At the end of the event, the students involved looked at their work with satisfaction, knowing they had started with an idea and ended with fully functioning electric vehicles.

Published 5/2/2014