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Engineers Design Prize-Winning Vehicle
posted May 2, 2007

Click for Team BUV High ResA basic utility vehicle (BUV) built by a Calvin senior design team from salvaged automobile parts placed second in the 2007 BUV Design Competition sponsored by the Institute for Affordable Transportation.

The Calvin BUV was built by four mechanical engineering students: Steve Buys from Denver, Colorado; Rob Lindquist from Dayton, Ohio; Scott Saxsma from Highland, Indiana; and Matt Korthuis from Lynden, Washington.

And in the first trip by a Calvin team to the competition, the quartet finished second overall, edged by a mere 1.1 points for first place by a team from Northern Illinois University, but ahead of third-place Purdue University (teams from John Brown, Alfred State, Missouri and Cincinnati also entered vehicles in the contest).

"We were really proud of how we did, and it was a lot of fun for us all," says Korthuis of the competition, which took place this year in Indianapolis.

The BUV was not only designed for the contest; the four students also submitted it as their senior design project, the culmination of their Calvin engineering education. The vehicle will be on display with the other projects during the senior design open house, to be held 4:30 through 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 5 at the Calvin Engineering Building.

The quartet chose their project after learning about the contest from the Institute for Affordable Transportation (IAT) Web site. The IAT is a not-for-profit public charity devoted to developing high-quality, low-cost transportation for the working poor in the developing world. This was the seventh year the institute has held the contest to inspire new design ideas for the multipurpose BUVs they produce for Africa and Latin America.

"Right away it jumped out at us as something we would enjoy working with because we're all automotive-geared type guys," says Korthuis.

The design parameters for the contest specified the vehicle must be built from parts salvaged from a Toyota Tercel or Corolla.

Click for Trophy High Res"They chose the Tercel because it's the most mass-produced vehicle in the world," says Saxsma.

"So, in theory," adds Korthuis, "there would be more broken down ones to salvage parts from."

The completed vehicle would have to be capable of carrying 1100 lbs up a 20-percent grade and it had to be built to be broken in half for shipping purposes. Its total cost could be no more than $1,000.

The team designed their vehicle from a 1988 Tercel they purchased for $300 from Goshen, Indiana.

"I call it the Frankenstein vehicle," says Saxsma. "We built our own frame from scratch out of tube steel. We harvested the transmission, front suspension and many electrical components from the Tercel and then integrated those into the frame we had designed."

The resulting BUV-built for rural areas and sunny climates-has no doors or roof and can handle off-road challenges.

"There's not paint to scratch or doors to ding, so you can un-tether yourself from those concerns," Saxsma says.

One thing that separated the Calvin design from its competitors was its simple design, the team maintains.

"It's really easy to design something that is really complicated and works well," says Buys. "It's very hard to design something that's simple and works well. That's the challenge of any engineering problem."

Click for Hill Climb High ResThe student teams were required to put their BUVs through a whole battery of trials to win the competition: the judge's drive, the hill climb (with successively heavier amounts of sandbags), the 90-minute endurance test, the acceleration course, the mud pit cross, the mogul field and the swamp cross as well as oral and written presentations.

The Calvin team topped the competition in the judge's drive, the endurance test, the acceleration test, the mogul field and both written and oral presentations.

In retrospect, the team feels that a hardier set of tires was necessary to win. Their second place finish did earn them a trophy, tickets to the Indy 500 and "sweet hats and plastic cups."

They also had the fun of working together.

"With this project there were very few days I didn't want to work on it," says Lindquist.

The four engineers initially teamed up last year on a junior design project.

"We realized after that that we had similar personalities, and we meshed well together and realized that we wanted to be on the senior design team as well," says Korthuis.

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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