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Travel for a Penny a Mile: An Engineering Design Challenge Inspiring Student Engagement and Sustainable Living

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Approaches to Sustainability and Grand Challenges

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1606.1 - 26.1606.18



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Paper Authors


Richard M. Goff Virginia Tech

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Richard M. Goff is a former aircraft structural test engineer for the Navy, Peace Corps Volunteer, and computer entrepreneur. He holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Richard has been teaching and engaging in research in multidisciplinary engineering design education for over eighteen years. Dr. Goff is the recipient of several university teaching awards, outreach awards, and best paper awards. His passion is creating engaging learning environments by bringing useful research results and industry practices into the classroom as well as using design research results to inform engineering practice.

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Traveling on a penny a mile: An Engineering Design Challenge Inspiring Student Engagement and Sustainable LivingStudent engagement and retention in engineering and science is paramount in developing thecountry’s needed technical workforce. Using actual critical engineering design challenges toinspire and engage students in design solutions to real problems is the path to achieving a highdegree of student engagement. Sustainability, living better on less, and team projects that directlyimpact people’s lives speak to this generation of engineering students. Energy usage is one of themost critical engineering challenges we face today. Global warming due to harmful emissionsfrom burning fossil fuels and rising gas prices as well as national security issues have drivenpeople to look for new ways to reduce their fuel consumption and to live better on less. It hasbeen known for some time that streamlining vehicles can dramatically improve their fueleconomy and in electric vehicles, where energy is precious, you see more streamlined examples.In this study, an interdisciplinary, multi-university team investigated the research question ofwhether or not it makes sense, from both an economic and practical standpoint, to streamline amotorcycle for everyday use. (A motorcycle was chosen because they are more accessible andless regulated than cars). To answer this research question, the team gathered data on previousVetter Fuel Economy Challenge events created by Craig Vetter, an American MotorcyclistAssociation Hall of Fame motorcycle designer, to test motorcycle fuel economy in real ridingconditions. Mr. Vetter was invited to spend a week on campus talking with Engineering andIndustrial Design Students about energy usage, streamlining, and aspects of fuel economy. Asthe realization of this design project, the team designed several components and constructed twostreamlined motorcycles to compete in the Vetter Fuel Economy Challenges. This is the onlystudent team involved in these challenges. All other participants are professionals.The design objectives were to design and fabricate a streamlined motorcycle system to performcomfortably when driven for at least 100 miles at 70 mph into a 30 mph headwind, carrying auseful load of at least four bags of groceries, and use the least amount of energy possible. Theperformance and fuel economy of the motorcycle was evaluated before and after streamlining.Examining data from several Vetter Challenges, dramatic improvement in the fuel economy ofmotorcycles after being streamlined is demonstrated. In parallel with the student team’s technicalresearch, their individual reflections before, during and after the project were formally gatheredand analyzed. In this paper, the dramatic results of the Vetter Challenge streamliner vehicles arediscussed along with students’ experience and reflections. Ongoing next steps and a pathway toimplement this research at other schools are revealed.

Goff, R. M. (2015, June), Travel for a Penny a Mile: An Engineering Design Challenge Inspiring Student Engagement and Sustainable Living Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24942

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