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MECHs ready for Shell EcoMarathon

Eight mechanical engineering students have been working this spring to ready Rice’s entry for the Shell Eco Marathon, to be held in Detroit April 22 - 24. Sophomore team captain Josh Cohen and his fellow members of the Electric Vehicle Team have been building the car in the crowded workspace on the loading dock in Ryon Lab. They spent the fall designing the vehicle and have had multiple construction sessions to get it ready to roll.

“There are about 20 of us who come to the meetings and have been part of building,” said Cohen, a sophomore mechanical engineering major. “We’ve been trying to plan that our car can be done on a two-year cycle. So, we’d complete this one and then next year, we’d tweak it. But, sometimes Shell changes the rules.”

That’s why the team had to design and build a new car from scratch for this year’s competition—Shell’s regulations said that cars couldn’t have a door that opened upward, thereby rendering last year’s electric vehicle unusable.

In addition to changing the door design, Cohen and the team have been perfecting the motor control on the car, as well as putting together the steering and brake mechanisms. For the competition, they’ll have a set number of laps they need to complete, after which the care will be measured by how much electricity it used to make the run. The car that uses the least electricity will be declared the winner.

Cohen said he joined the team after seeing last year’s car at the annual Club Fair. Then a freshman, he liked the idea that the group built the car, and thought the team looked like fun. As president of the club this year, he said he’s spent a lot of time on logistics and coordinating with team members to get the car completed in time to ship it to Motor City. 

“We’ve been building all spring and have ramped up efforts since right after mid-term recess,” he said. “I’m excited about the competition, and a little nervous, too. Will we have a chance to test the car before we go up there? Will we have time to change anything? I think, in the end, it will all come together.”

The team’s mechanical engineering majors are: sophomore Josh Cohen; juniors Luke Daniels, Roberto Rosas and Clark Zha; seniors  Preston Hill, Gabriel Ortuno  and Chris Renovato; and second-year graduate student Mengping (Mike) Zhu.

– Holly Beretto, Engineering Communications