Mechanical engineering students compete for first time in Human Powered Vehicle Challenge
Posted: 05/13/2009
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For the first time The University of Texas-Pan American sent a team of mechanical engineering students to participate in the 2009 Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) Challenge - West Division organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in Portland, Ore.

Team member Vanessa Brown pilots "El Bronquito" during the sprint race category of the 2009 Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) Challenge - West Division in Portland, Ore.

The UTPA team, made up of nine members, finished 11th overall with their HPV submission of "El Bronquito." UTPA was one of 48 teams that registered for the event and one of 28 that showed up at the Portland State University site ready to compete with "El Bronquito." The team and their HPV single-rider submission were judged on design, sprint, utility, and endurance.

The competition occurred April 30-May 4 and offered university teams from across the country the chance to compete to design and build aerodynamic, highly-engineered vehicles that can be used for everyday activities.

Team members included Vanessa Brown, Houston; Christopher Caballero, Weslaco, Texas; Jonathan Hill, McAllen, Texas; Ricardo Alcala, Pharr, Texas; Benjamin Ramirez, Matamoros, Mexico, all seniors; Albert Salazar, junior, San Juan, Texas; Ernesto Olvera, sophomore, La Joya, Texas; and Jose Carlos Garcia, freshman, Roma, Texas; and Kristofer Ohlinger, graduate student, Mission, Texas.

In the endurance race "El Bronquito" finished eighth, while in design it ranked 14th, and in the sprint race it ended in 16th place.

"This is the first appearance for UTPA in this event," said team adviser Dr. Seokyoung Ahn, mechanical engineering assistant professor. "We really appreciate everyone's support of our team."

Ahn said he and the team learned a great deal from taking part in the first competition and are already planning for next year with fund raising, design, and implementation.

Overall, Ramirez said he was happy with UTPA's first appearance in the HPV Challenge and is already thinking of ideas to improve the HPV for the next contest.

Posing with "El Bronquito" at the HPV Challenge are standing left to right Ricardo Alcalá, Christopher Caballero, Dr. Seokyoung Ahn, team adviser, and Jonathan Hill. Bottom left to right are Vanessa Brown, Kristofer Ohlinger, and Benjamin Ramirez.

"There will be some brainstorming during the summer of how the frame will be built, what drive train will be used, and what will be the shape of the fairing," Ramirez, team captain, said. "The main objective for next year's competition is to build a faster more slender two-wheeled vehicle to compete in both single race and utility race competitions."

He said being a part of the "El Bronquito" team taught him a few life lessons and teamwork skills. Ramirez said he learned how to improvise, manage his time, work as part of a team for a common goal, and also make some sacrifices along the way.

"I also learned that colleges around the country go through the same engineering problems as us, so if we are good in the Rio Grande Valley, we can be good anywhere," he said.

To learn more about the team's "El Bronquito" design and results, visit

For more information on the UTPA Department of Mechanical Engineering, visit