Human-powered vehicle racer Jerrod Bouchard, a senior in mechanical engineering, recorded the third-fastest time ever by a college student this fall during the World Human-Powered Speed Challenge in Battle Mountain, Nev.
Bouchard’s best time in four tries was 59.26 mph. The record is 61.4 mph.
Human-powered vehicles are recumbent bicycles with aerodynamic shells. Bouchard and his UMR teammates worked on their vehicle, StreaMiner, for about a year prior to the event. The team consists of chief engineer Bouchard, aerodynamics designer Andrew Sourk, a senior in aerospace engineering, team leader Craig George, a senior in electrical engineering, and composite specialist Matt Brown, a senior in mechanical engineering.
The annual speed challenge event, which was held Oct. 1-6 this year, is staged on a flat 5-mile stretch of highway near Battle Mountain. The road is closed to traffic for approximately one hour before sunset during the contest. The riders get one attempt per day.
Several event organizers catch the human-powered vehicles as the racers attempt to slow down after the finish line. The riders are then extracted from their vehicles. Bouchard says you can tell he’s really “pushed it” when he’s unable to walk away for several minutes after the aerodynamic shell is removed from StreaMiner.
This year’s week-long event was marred by cold weather and wind. All racing was cancelled on Friday, Oct. 5, due to wind and snow, and the riders were unable to reach top speeds in the cold weather on Saturday. Oct. 6.
During one run, Bouchard topped 60 mph and even passed a vehicle that had started two minutes before him. But he had to slow down in order to overtake the other vehicle safely, a maneuverwhich cost him speed during the crucial stretch of road where the vehicles are officially timed.
Bouchard, Sourk, George and Brown are all members of UMR’s Human-Powered Vehicle Team, which won East Coast and West Coast championships in collegiate human-powered racing last spring. The Battle Mountain endeavor, which emphasizes sprinting speed, is a separate challenge that was born out of thelarger team’s success.