LU engineering team wins, will enter 2 other competitions with eco-friendly cars they design

March 1, 2017 GMT

What was Lamar University’s football record in 2016? Three and eight.

What about the Lamar men’s basketball record so far? Sixteen and 12.

And the Lamar mechanical engineering “Hack-a-Truck” team result?

“Best engineering design and best energy calculation.”

The team won the honors earlier this month at the Shell Hack-a-Truck competition at the Google Garage in Mountain View, California.

The engineers rock.

In late April, that mechanical engineering students will compete again in the Shell Eco-Marathon in Detroit. Another Lamar engineering team will head to California on the same weekend to build a dune buggy to compete in the Mini-Baja competition.

The team that won “best engineering design” at the California Hack-a-Truck event includes Justin Amedee of Orange; Kamdon Weaver of Mesquite; Andres Torres of Port Arthur; and Steven Do of Port Arthur.

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In mid-February, the team traveled to San Francisco to represent Lamar at the invitation-only event that included eight universities. The Lamar team was paired with a team from Cedarville University in Ohio.

The goal was to create an energy-efficient food truck design and they had one day to do it after reviewing some general requirements the day before.

Students were to receive no help from their advisers during the competition, but were mentored by Cameron Davies, owner and president of Cruising Kitchens; celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre; Jaime Moreno and Jose Luis Martin-Oar of Mormedi, a consultant firm in areas of service and digital design, said Ryan Litchfield, communications staff member for Lamar’s College of Engineering.

The Lamar team decided on a food truck that specialized in potato dishes because potatoes are low-priced and the food trucks were to be oriented for low-income neighborhoods.

The team selected a food truck name of “Routine Poutine,” a Canadian dish using french fries and cheese curds.

Teams had to incorporate bright energy solutions to redesign the experience in aspects involving: lighting, heating, waste production and handling.

The Lamar team used “Pave-Gen,” a Shell start-up company for the flooring, so every step generated power for LED lights.

“It’s not that efficient yet,” Do said. “It’d take 100 years to pay for itself. That’s why it’s a start-up.”

But Pave-Gen could also make a display for the front, like hopscotch squares, to attract kids, he said.

Weaver said the design incorporated solar panels on the top of the truck to track the sun to generate power more efficiently.

The students were not building actual trucks, but designing them. They produced a 3-D printed model for judging. Projects were judged on integration, innovation, creativity and usability.

The next project in their senior capstone course is to build a car to compete in the Shell Eco-Marathon.

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The car, which will measure about 4 feet wide and 7 feet long, will be judged on its energy efficiency. (In comparison a two-door Fiat 500c is 5 feet 4 inches wide, 11 feet 6 inches long.)

Their team will build the Urban Concept car, using “street legal” requirements like head and tail lights.

The diesel-powered vehicle must weigh under 500 pounds and its driver, Emanuel Flores, has to weigh at least 150 pounds. If he doesn’t, Shell will add weight, but that would throw off the delicate balance of the car, Amedee said.

“I’d rather have him over than under,” Amedee said.

All seniors in the mechanical engineering department take part in a senior project. Some are working with NASA, said Jenny Zhou, a Lamar mechanical engineering professor.

Another team will go to Detroit with a “prototype” car, which is a little more free-form than the Urban Concept car.

The dune buggy team has more students in it because a buggy is more complicated, said Zhou.

Its suspension and steering must be capable of negotiating uneven terrain.

“We should be driving it in about two weeks,” said Zhebeau Beasley, co-design leader of the dune buggy team.

Both teams intend to incorporate Cardinal Red into their cars’ colors.

Stickers also will be affixed representing sponsors, including local businesses like Advance Fiberglass Products of Groves; Metalforms Ltd. of Beaumont; Lamar Institute of Technology, whose students are welding the aluminum frame for the Urban Concept car; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union.

The teams have to come up with about half of the expenses to attend the competitions.

People can follow the progress of the Eco-Marathon team “Lamar University eco car, 2016-17” on Facebook.

“It’ll be an awesome experience,” Amedee said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

DWallach@BeaumontEnterprise.comTwitter.com/DWallach