Yale SEAS Students Win ASME Design the Future Competition

For a project that used the kinetic energy of a motorcycle to generate electrical power, a team of Yale Engineering students was named a co-winner of the 2015 American Society of Mechanical Engineers “Design the Future Competition.”

The team, made up of Mechanical Engineering seniors Bernardo Saravia, Chinmay Jaju, Gordon McCambridge and Regina Chan, and Biomedical Engineering student Olga Wroblewski, received their award Tuesday in Boston.

McCambridge said the project, “Rural Electrification: Power Generation Using a Motorcycle,” was inspired by a trip to an African village. In Rohvitangitaa, a roughly 2,000-person community in northwestern Cameroon, one in four households have a motorcycle, but most of the residents have no steady source of electricity. Very few have enough money to afford both a motorcycle and a generator. "Our thought was 'Would there be a way to use a motorcycle as a source of electrical power of the community?’" said McCambridge, who visited the village as a member of Engineers Without Borders.


Over one semester, the team designed a dynamometer and a regulated charging system for energy storage (using 12V DC batteries) or AC power use (using an inverter). The students manufactured all components of the system, finishing with a fully operational unit capable of safely stabilizing a motorcycle and producing electrical power.

After deciding on the basic idea, the team laid out what kind of requirements they needed to meet. The design had to be resilient, long-lasting and easy to fix. It also had to efficiently generate a high amount of power, be lightweight, and easy to install. In the end, they achieved all these objectives at a cost of $883.

The team members say they want to test it on a more power motorcycle, and refine the design to make it compatible with other kinds of vehicles.

Larry Wilen, SEAS senior research scientist, said the was impressed by the ambition of the project; something of that scope would require a high level of technical discipline, planning and execution. 

“However, the team not only met the requirement for their project, but they went far beyond, producing an impressive final device that was robustly functional and safe,” he wrote in letter of support for the team.

Vincent Wilczynski, Deputy Dean of SEAS, said that the project is an “integrated system that works well and fulfills an otherwise unmet need.”

“The project has the potential to be implemented, as it was modularly constructed in a manner that could be shipped to a remote area,” he wrote.

A team from University of Oklahoma’s School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering was the other co-winner of the competition. “Designing for the Future” is an undergraduate design competition organized by the Design Education Technical Committee of the ASME Design Engineering Division.

Here's a video of the team testing the device: