Stick vehicle offers design insights
Lightweight cars the way of the future
Finding out that vehicles made from Popsicle sticks, string, CDs and glue can be propelled as far as seven metres has come as a huge relief for dozens of engineering students at the University of Windsor.
“I did a little dance in my kitchen when it worked,” said Jim Conmackie, a third-year mechanical engineering student.
Conmackie, along with team members Mike MacAdams and Albert Wong, built a three-foot high vehicle made from more than 1,500 Popsicle sticks that was successfully propelled across the St. Denis Centre floor with the aid of four-kilogram weights which drove the axles and moved the vehicle.
“We wanted to maximize its height as much as possible so ours is sturdier than most because we didn’t want it to sway or topple when the weights dropped and it started moving,” said MacAdams. “There was a lot of trial and error involved so it felt great when it was tested and worked.”
More than 20 teams of students participated in the kinetic energy project, organized by Bill Altenhof, associate professor of engineering.
“There were constraints on the materials they could use and the vehicles also had to fall into certain mass limits,” said Altenhof. “The weight limit was 2.7 kilograms.
“Using weights as fuel gives students a better appreciation for where they can obtain fuels and that it doesn’t always have to be based on liquid hydrocarbons,” said Altenhof. “It’s also a clear example of using mass to move something.”
Students were judged on how far their vehicle moved and were also graded on the distance travelled divided by the weight of the vehicle.
Altenhof said that lightweight vehicles are important in the future of the auto industry and “we felt it was necessary to impress that upon our students as well.”
Building teamwork and cooperation was another critical part of the project, said Sara Al-Kudady, a second-year civil engineering student.
“It was a fun project and we learned to work together through trial and error,” said Al-Kudady, who teamed up with Tyler Nantais, Peter Ponikowski and Justin Abbott.
Ponikowski said it was a “stressful project until we were able to run a successful test and that’s when we realized we were on the right track.”