Team reflects on experience and continues with plans for new design, even as old vehicle breaks records.
On a run that broke UNH's previous supermileage vehicle record, Brittanie Albera '16 brought a passenger along for the ride: an angry wasp.
The mechanical engineering major from Milford noticed a yellow jacket near her feet as she made her first lap around the track last month in a small bullet-shaped car at the Eaton Corp.'s proving grounds for the 35th Annual Society of Automotive Engineers’ Supermileage Competition in Marshall, Mich.
“Every time I turned the engine on, the vibration would anger it,” she said.
Albera called over the radio to team captains Erik Wengenroth ’14 and Jonathan Attruia ’14. They replied, “Did it sting you? If not, then keep going!”
Second Top Ten Finish at the National Competition
It didn't sting her. And though it challenged her ability to focus on driving, Albera finished the run at 503 miles per gallon. The mark was UNH's best ever, more than 200 mpg better than last year. It put the team in ninth place overall, the second year in a row UNH had a top-ten finish.
“Our team will be placing stick-on bees on all our cars from now on for good luck,” joked Sam Daniels, associate professor of engineering who served as the team’s technical adviser.
In reality, the wasp is the least likely reason for the success. The team spent a good deal of the past year revamping the vehicle's engine. In addition to Wengenroth, Albera and Attruia, the other members were Class of 2014 graduates Ahmad Alsaigh, Mohammed Alkatheeri and Ghanim Almahmoud.
Wengenroth, a mechanical engineering major from Stratford, Conn., who graduated in May, has worked on UNH's supermileage vehicle for four of the five years of its existence. He joined the University's chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) his freshman year. This was his second year as head of the chapter.
He has helped improve the vehicle on a number of fronts. One improvement was to move the rear wheels out from under the vehicle, where they had originally been placed. The car had rolled over in its first competition.
Wengenroth said the team's efforts haven't felt much like work for him, though he added it had been brain-wracking and nerve-fraying at times. “If you have an interest in cars, the payoffs are really, really high,” he said.
An Entirely New Vehicle Design
This year he decided it was time to create an entirely new vehicle, which he started as part of his senior design project. Whereas the current vehicle's carbon-fiber shell limited some of the improvements that could be made, the new vehicle has an aluminum frame.
Other changes Wengenroth incorporated into the new car revolve around driver control and comfort. It uses space more efficiently, and – unlike the old vehicle – has a suspension.
That last point is important for Albera, who came away from this year's competition with her share of bruises. “You feel all the cracks” in the road, she said. “It's not really built for driver comfort.”
Albera, who will continue working on the new design as the new ASME chair next semester, said she plans to continue on as driver for at least one more year. She hopes to have a better experience when she tries out the new vehicle.
She said she had initially joined because she wanted to be involved with something related to her major that she could add to her resume. It became its own learning experience, though.
“I was able to take what I learned in the classroom and apply it to the car,” she said.
To break into the top five next year, the vehicle will have to top 900 mpg, but Daniels isn't daunted. “We look forward to the challenge,” he said.
Both Wengenroth and Albera called it a great experience and lauded their teammates for the support they provided.
Wengenroth also encouraged people outside the engineering field to join, recalling that a criminal justice major had joined them in the past.
“Anyone can get involved,” he said.
This story was written by Brandon T. Bisceglia ’14, UNH Today Contributing Writer