MOCC students compete at Innovative Vehicle Design Performance Challenge

BIG RAPIDS – After many weeks of designing, fabricating and assembling, Mecosta-Osceola Career Center innovative engineering students proudly presented and drove their student-made vehicle at the Innovative Vehicle Design Performance Challenge.

The challenge was held on May 3 at Michigan International Speedway and MOCC students brought home five trophies – two first place awards for craftsmanship and sportsmanship and three second place finishes for oval track presentation, ambassadorship.

“When we started, we didn’t really know where we were headed,” said Robert Green, a Big Rapids High School student. “It was high stress. I think actually seeing the finished product and going out there as a team was the best experience.”

“It’s a pretty good feeling when you can design something on the computer and then actually build it and put it together and see it work and run,” added Joseph Debusk, a Reed City High School student.

“Our vehicle has a 24-volt system, so we have two 12-volt batteries wired in series, which allows to add up the voltage but keep our amperage, and that runs the motor and the camera, which is like a mirror.”

MOCC students competed in both an oval track and figure-eight races, which were designed not to show off speed, but rather vehicle sturdiness and energy management.

“The figure-eight race tests durability and how well your car holds up and the oval track you just go as long as you can go for an hour,” said Derek Bowen, Evart High School student, noting that seeing the vehicle race on the track was a moment of pride. “Last year I was on the team, and our car was actually broken down on the first race. It was nice having a car done and working well.”

Morley Stanwood student Justin Kuhn, who drove the vehicle on the figure-eight track, said being behind the wheel was a rush.

“Going out there I didn’t have any experience driving it, so I just kind of hopped in and got a feel for it,” Kuhn said. “Once I got a feel for it, it was really fun.”

Completing the car was no easy task, and several students committed extra hours outside of class to finish the project. “After Christmas Break, we were coming in early at 6 a.m. to work on the car and the afternoon class was staying until sometimes 10 p.m. to work on it, busting to get it done,” said Chris Routheaux, an Evart High School student. “There were some long days and weekends,” added Doug Ward, Innovative Engineering instructor. “These guys gave all they had and they spent their own dime to come over. They were just as committed to this as they are to their home school sports.” In class, innovative engineering students learn about design, electrical systems, pneumatics, hydraulics, welding, using a mill and lathe, plastics and machining. They then put these skills to create the vehicle. “A lot of the parts are machined in class,” said Dean Marsh, Evart High School student. “We will do them on the mill or lathe. Most everything on the vehicle was made by us, except some pieces, like the shocks and the hood. Everything else was made by us. You get a lot of pride out of it because it is your own work; it is made and built by hand by students who maybe have never built anything like it before.” For the innovative aspect of the vehicle – a process called hydrographic dipping –students coated parts in a layer of film, yielding a unique design. “I do it more as a hobby at home for friends,” said Kuhn, the only student with prior experience with hydrographic dipping. “I brought up the idea in the beginning of the year and as the year went on we didn’t really know of an innovation, so we incorporated it.” For ambassadorship, innovative engineering students taught seventh grade students at Evart Middle School how to build remote-control tanks in an assembly line fashion. “You have to have some kind of way to reach out to younger students and get them interested and informed about what we do here and the kinds of things we do to get them interested in engineering and hopefully to get them into the engineering world,” Debusk said. “We had them break off into work classes and split them evenly into different assembly stations so we could introduce them to the assembly line. At each assembly station we had trays with all of the parts they would need. We had them guess how long it would take for them to put the parts together, to screw them into place, and for them to pass it on to the next station. Then we recorded their actual time with a stopwatch and compared them. They had a blast with it. When they all had their tanks they had built we had a big battle at the end of the day.” MOCC students and their vehicle will represent Michigan June 10 through June 12 at The Big M, a manufacturing convergence at Cobo Center, displaying what high school students are doing in the engineering field.