College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

ISU’s Fluid Power Club Brings Home First Place Title in National Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge

Photo of students on the ground working on the vehicle with tools

Iowa State University’s Fluid Power team brought home the first place title in the National Fluid Power Association’s Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge last Friday.

Photo of students standing behind their vehicle
Students with vehicle

Held in Ames, Iowa, in person for the first time in three years, the three day competition tested a human-powered vehicle using a hydraulic powered transmission that the team designed. In the competition, each team’s vehicle gets tested in three categories, and each team presents their work through a technical presentation, design review and reviews from throughout the year it took to design and build the vehicle.

The ISU team won first place in all three categories for the first time in history – placing first in endurance, efficiency and sprint. The team was awarded $3,000 for the overall first place and an additional $1,000 for the endurance challenge.

Photo of students standing with first place award
Students with first place award

Members of the team include Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering students Tyler Hamerlinck, James Stultz, Russell Rydin, Isaac Linn and Luke Greiner.

The team was mentored by Brian Steward and Saxon Ryan, a professor and assistant teaching professor in ABE.

In fall of 2021, the ISU team started the fabrication process for the parts, and thereafter built and assembled the bike, putting in many hours and lots of learning opportunities into the project. This competition has a special challenge that the team had to navigate – according to the NFPA’s rules, the task is to combine two very different things – human-powered vehicles and fluid power (hydraulics and pneumatics), to create a human-powered vehicle with a hydraulic transmission. Each team is required to include an accumulator for storing energy, an electronic control system for the vehicle, and some kind of regeneration technology into the device.

Photo of student riding Fluid Power Vehicle that looks like a bike
ISU student driving vehicle. Photographer: Dan Welk, Click! Photography

“We spent a semester doing engineering analysis and a semester physically building the bike,” said Isaac Linn, student in ABE and team member. “If you took away all of the time we spent making mistakes and hesitating before making a decision, it would not have taken us long at all, since our design was relatively simple. With all of the fun ‘learning experiences’ we had, though, I’d say we collectively put at least 500 hours into this project.”

Photo of students on the ground working on the vehicle with tools
Students working on the vehicle

But with all of the lessons learned throughout this project, not only did the team bring home the first place status, they will also bring their lessons with them throughout their future careers.

“There were several small lessons learned throughout the process of designing and building the bike,” said Luke Grainer, student in ABE and team member. “But I think the biggest takeaway was learning to apply theory that we have learned in our classes throughout our time at Iowa State, and combining that with our personal intuition and past experiences to ultimately make a functioning and highly competitive bike.”

For many of the students, this was their first time designing and assembling a hydraulic system. Participating in this competition allowed the team to not only discover valuable career lessons, but also expand their technical knowledge of hydraulic systems.

“I was very pleased that the team did so well this year,” Steward said. “The bike performed very well and had a solid design. They took an innovative approach to the design that served them well.”