In about 2006, those of us who are involved in hydraulics and love it began to worry that students were losing interest in the technology. To better attract bright young students to hydraulics, Parker Hydraulics Group sponsored a competition in which the challenge was to build a bicycle powered by hydraulics instead of a chain drive. It seemed like a fun idea to focus on bicycle design and we dubbed the competition “Chainless Challenge.”
The first competition, held around 2006, was interesting because while some students developed efficient solutions, other students designed bicycles that, well, sometimes required a bit of pushing! Contrast that with a recent competition where our hydraulic bike designs achieved speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.
The competition features different categories such as drag, endurance, start-stop, and efficiency races. Winning teams get awards and scholarships. The competition is capped at 10 teams but we are hoping to expand by getting a consortium of other companies, academia, and perhaps an association such as the SAE involved.
The Chainless Challenge has long since gone viral. Last year, we even had to turn some schools away after our initial spots were taken.
Note that from an engineering standpoint, when you compare man to other animals in regards to speed, the bicycle is a “big multiplier.” Man runs a lot more slowly than a panther, for example; but a human on a bicycle can move at relatively high speeds and for long distances. The basic format of a bicycle hasn't really changed much in 150 years — triangular shape, a chain, a sprocket — because the design is very efficient. Hydraulics, though, are notoriously inefficient at low speeds. And the amount of horsepower a person can generate is pretty small. For the Challenge, students basically were tasked with marrying hydraulic pumps and motors with a bicycle frame.
Over time, the Challenge is also a winner because it is now attracting students to hydraulics like never before.
Read the next post in this series to find out more about the bike design.
Article contributed by Craig Maxwell, Corporate Vice President Technology and Innovation, Parker Hannifin
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