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Senior Design Team Participates in the NFPA’s Fluid Powered Vehicle Competition

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Ritchie School Communications Team

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The Ritchie School hosted their annual Senior Design Symposium on May 15 virtually. Each senior design team participated and worked hard to ensure that the community was still able to view their project as fully as an in-person event.

One of the teams participated in the National Fluid Power Association’s Fluid Powered Vehicle Competition. The NFPA’s mission is to serve as a forum where all fluid power channel partners work together to advance fluid power technology, strengthen the fluid power industry, and foster members’ success. 

This team’s members are: Molly Kuettel (BS ME) – Project Lead; Hayden Dean (BS ME) – Mechanical Lead; Jeremy Isaac (BS ME) – CAD Lead; Tim O’Meara (BS ME) – Electrical Lead; Simon Glezer (BS ME) – Financial Lead; Kwabena Asare (BS ME) – Test Lead. (Left to right.)

The NFPA Senior Design Team


Every year, the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) hosts the Fluid Powered Vehicle Competition (FPVC) as a way to increase students’ knowledge of hydraulic power applications. This competition allows for innovative hydraulic drivetrains to be designed, created, and tested. The team’s design integrated a recumbent 3-wheel vehicle with a hydraulic motor, pumps, solenoid valves, accumulator, custom-built aluminum tube frame, and manifold to harness the power of incompressible hydraulic fluid to propel a rider in three competitions against 15 other university teams from across the nation.

Hydraulic Component

Highlights of the design included Ackerman steering components, pre-charge / boost circuits which stored and discharged energy to propel the vehicle without rider input, regenerative braking which captured energy that would otherwise be lost to friction (heat), and a drive mode which allowed for the user input to propel the vehicle like a traditional bike, but with a hydraulic drivetrain instead. Relief valves, pressure gauges, and chain guards ensured rider safety by passively protecting against an over-pressurization and provided feedback of working fluid pressure at critical junctions.

Although the team’s design was unable to be physically completed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the design was completed virtually and simulations were performed to ascertain performance estimates. This vehicle illustrates the potential for alternative transportation options, particularly in terms of improving efficiency when utilizing hydraulic components. While this design was unable to be optimized based on testing, it provided an innovative way to demonstrate hydraulic power, and to potentially create an impetus for future developments of this technology.

The NFPA Pitch Video