RIT/NTID Students Win First In Student Division In International Alternative Fuel Competition




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Students from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology worked together to build two alternative fuel vehicles, which won first and second place in the student division, and also won second and third overall in the international Tour de Sol electric bicycle competition, held recently in Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Teams competed for $10,000 in prize money in various technology categories and earned points for practicality, acceleration, handling and range in addition to good fuel efficiency and low climate-change emissions. The annual competition’s goal is to offer fun, competitive challenges that showcase advanced technology while working toward using zero carbon emission vehicles.

RIT/NTID students entered two bikes in the “Around Town Vehicle Competition,” designed to incorporate innovations that reduce carbon emissions while creating a quality, affordable vehicle.

One bike was built from scratch without pedal assistance after the nine students involved designed, machined, fabricated, welded and assembled it, using parts purchased at local shops and on e-bay. It took first place against 10 other entries.

“The goal was to balance the energy that's stored in the battery system with how quickly you extract that energy using a motor and drivetrain,” said Scott Bellinger, the club’s advisor and NTID assistant professor of automation technology. “The vehicle needs to be as efficient as possible so as to not waste energy through heat or frictional losses either in the drivetrain or even just air friction.”

The other vehicle was a modified version of an existing bike, powered by a lithium battery with pedal assistance. Both bikes use a brushless, gearless direct drive hub motor for propulsion. Energy is stored in 50 amp-hour lithium-ion batteries. A custom controller converts the D.C. power into three phase alternating current for the motor, Bellinger said, and a twist grip throttle, like a motorcycle uses, controls the current to the motor and varies the speed.

This is the first team in the Tour’s 18-year history comprising deaf people. Bellinger and Ronald Till, chairperson for NTID’s Industrial & Science Technologies Department served as interpreters for the students.

“There were a couple issues that will likely be modified next year,” Till said. “For example, riders are made aware of a caution with a horn; we’ll have to include flags and lights next time. In addition, one rule was to yell to the rider in front of you that you are about to pass on the left – which obviously doesn’t work for riders with hearing loss.”

Participating students are Radames Marrero, Bronx, N.Y.; Justin Bak, Windom, Minn.; Samuel Sherman, Brainerd, Minn.; Matt White, Lexington, Ky.; Travis Dickson, Lexington, Ky.; Armin Mujkanovic, Atlanta, Ga.; Kyle Trask, Pembroke, Mass.; Steven Forney, Huntsville, Ala.; and Andrew Kucharski, Laurel, Md.

The 2006 Tour de Sol is a volunteer-run competition, sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. NESEA is an education and advocacy membership organization that facilitates the widespread adoption and use of sustainable energy by providing support to industry professionals and by educating and motivating consumers to learn about, ask for, and adopt sustainable energy and green building practices.

Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized as a leader in computing, engineering, imaging technology, fine and applied arts, and for providing unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. RIT is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and more than 1,100 students with hearing loss from around the world study, live, and socialize with 14,400 hearing students on RIT’s Rochester, N.Y., campus. U.S. News and World Report has consistently ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities.

Web address www.rit.edu/NTID.

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