Cal Poly Human Powered Vehicle Breaks 26 Year Old School Record!

Last year we brought you the story of how engineering students at Cal Poly used Precision Board urethane tooling to make fairings for their human-powered vehicle.  We also told you that the team withdrew from the ASME competition and decided instead to compete at Battle Mountain, Nevada in September 2019 in order to beat the U.S. collegiate team speed record of 61.3 miles per hour.  Hit the link below to see how they did and read the harrowing story of the competition, including video of a crash that ended up being a real test of the team’s built in safety measures.

From George Leone:

The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo HPV Team completed their fully enclosed Human Powered Vehicle “Ambition” just five days before competition. In the process they had to abandon a glitchy video vision system in favor of installing last-minute windows!

The event was the World Human Powered Vehicle Speed Competition (WHPSC) near Battle Mountain, Nevada in September 2019. On the second day of racing Josh Gieschen, the student pilot/motor, attained 64 miles per hour, exceeding UC Berkeley’s 26 year-old US collegiate record of 61.29 mph. But the wind was over the 3.7 meters per second limit, too strong to be “legal”, so no record was allowed.

This became a pattern for the rest of the week, with their speeds going as high as 66 mph twice, frustrating the team again and again with “illegal” winds. Leading up to the last day, Cal Poly only had one “legal” wind run, which was 1/10th mile an hour slower than the record.

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It came down to the last day, Saturday. They were ceded in the second heat of the morning. Josh got into the bike, the team taped the seams of the shell closed, launched and followed in the school van. He did 63.11 mph, but was frustrated because the wind was “illegal” once again. That looked like the end of it for the year.

The Team drove back to start and requested to run again in the fourth and last heat. It’s rare to attempt two runs so close together because the “motor” usually can’t recover that quick, but Josh was adamant.

Veteran racer Peter Borenstadt graciously gave up his position in that heat so that Cal Poly could have another chance. That’s how HPV Racers are.

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Cal Poly became serious, quietly taping the pilot in and launching. Josh gave it everything he had left. Just before the bike reached the crew in the “catch zone” (riders are fully enclosed and can’t put their feet down) an exhausted Josh grabbed the brakes too hard. The rear tire blew.

Ambition suddenly pitched sideways and pencil-rolled four times, amazingly ending upright beside the road to be caught by the crew. Because all the safety and restraint systems worked perfectly Josh exited with only a few bruises, and only a few scratches on the body of the bike.

Then they waited for the timer’s report on the radio. “Ambition: 63.68 miles per hour; wind is legal. Congratulations Cal Poly – you have a record!” The team went crazy!

Read more about their record breaking run HERE and also catch up on our original blog where the team used Precision Board urethane tooling to fabricate their HPV.

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At Coastal Enterprises, we like to look at the composites industry as a fully collaborative effort. Every fresh new development by an individual is really a contribution to a collective knowledge base. Like any scientific pursuit, the most potent advancements are made when information is shared freely between likeminded groups of people. For this reason, we feel obliged to do everything we can to enlighten and empower the future community of composites professionals.  That’s why we support school programs with donations of Precision Board HDU.  Click HERE to find out more about the program or give us a call with your questions at 800-845-0745.

Cal Poly Human Powered Vehicle Team to Race at Battle Mountain

The Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) Team at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is doing something a little different this year.  Rather than race at the student competition put on by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), they decided to compete at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC) in Battle Mountain, Nevada this September.

Five members attended last year as guests of George Leone and his wife Carole (former president of the International Human-Powered Vehicle Association).  George has a long history with Cal Poly and is a font of knowledge when it comes to both composites and Human Powered Vehicle Racing.  He volunteered sporadically helping Cal Poly’s HPV teams from 1980 to 1989, and then continuously from 1989 to the present.  George also ran the Cal Poly Projects Shop from 2001 to 2017.  This shop includes facilities for machining, student welding, woodworking, sheet metal work, advanced composites and design space for senior projects, as well as nine engineering clubs that compete at a national level.  He has also built and raced his own HPVs since 1988.

“After retiring in July 2017, I signed up as a volunteer again. I’m working with student Teams and Senior Projects at least 1 day a week,” he says.  “It’s never felt like ‘work’, it’s a joy to watch young people develop into confident, skilled hands-on engineers! And they teach me a lot, too!” he adds.

Leone says being at the 2018 WHPSC event inspired the HPV Team to build and race.  They are documenting their entire process for future teams and are one of the best organized teams George has seen in the last 38 years of his involvement with Cal Poly. Along with extensive engineering, they are fundraising and getting close to their goal!  You can sponsor them by donating HERE.

The team is bonding sheets of PBLT-15 Precision Board HDU with PB Bond 240 adhesive, following the instructions in our training video (you can check that out here).

George says, “Precision Board HDU is easy for both beginners and experienced people to work with, has a high recyclables content and is amazingly consistent. It’s a great experience for Engineering majors to work with such a well thought-out product line!”

The fairing will be machined by Safran Aerosystems, formerly Zodiac Aerospace. The Team will build the carbon/Kevlar fairing using room-temperature vacuum bagging techniques they are experienced with. Their twin goals are to break the Cal Poly record of 59.89 mph and the undergraduate collegiate record (designed, built and ridden by undergraduate students) held by UC Berkeley at 61.2 mph.

You can follow the HPV Team’s progress at their website, on  their Instagram and Facebook accounts and donate towards their project here or at their Crowdfund site here.


Starting in 1978, Cal Poly students began to lead inquiries into the limits of bicycle performance. They were the first Mechanical Engineering design/build club at Cal Poly, producing many faired bicycles. These bikes were excellent for their time, but were only just scratching the surface of Cal Poly’s human powered potential.

In 1983, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) began formally hosting competitions for HPVs. Before this, the HPV club raced in general recumbent bicycle competitions, but with a clearly defined and regular competition, the team was able to tailor their bike more effectively. They quickly found success in these competitions, consistently placing well, including numerous 1st place finishes.

However, over time the ASME competition became overly defined, forcing teams to design concurrently for speed, safety, stability, baggage capacity and steering. This made it difficult to create a bike that excelled in any one category. For this reason, the Team withdrew from the ASME competition this year and transitioned to a competition focused on one thing – pure speed.

This year, the Team is embarking on a new journey: traveling to Battle Mountain, Nevada in September 2019 to best the U.S. collegiate team speed record of 61.3 miles per hour. Follow the Team on our journey, and if you’d like to support us, links and information can be found here.


At Coastal Enterprises, we like to look at the composites industry as a fully collaborative effort. Every fresh new development by an individual is really a contribution to a collective knowledge base. Like any scientific pursuit, the most potent advancements are made when information is shared freely between likeminded groups of people. For this reason, we feel obliged to do everything we can to enlighten and empower the future community of composites professionals.  That’s why we support school programs with donations of Precision Board HDU.  Click HERE to find out more about the program or give us a call with your questions at 800-845-0745.


Solar Cooking In Third World Countries

A unique program at Cal Poly SLO, headed by Dr. Pete Schwartz, is experimenting with ground-breaking solar cooking technology with its ultimate goal to make solar cooking an effective, affordable option for under-developed locations worldwide.

Many villages in under-developed locations rely on open-fire cooking daily, which leads to respiratory problems and premature deaths, especially among children and infants. Notable German inventor Wolfgang Scheffler has pioneered solar cooking technology since the 1980’s and his free-to-the-public design was the basis for the Cal Poly prototype.

See the whole story here.

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Cal Poly Students Optimize Solar Cooking With Precision Board

A group of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Engineering and Physics students recently took part in an amazing project designed to help residents of some of the world’s poorest locations cook food with solar energy.

Using the Scheffler Reflector concept (a large solar reflector that tracks the sun on a single polar axis, reflects the sunlight and concentrates it), Cal Poly students set out to make a reflector of their own that was less expensive and easier to manufacture. The present model with a reflector dish supported by a complicated aluminum matrix costs more than $4,000 to buy and ship from Germany.

The goal was to develop a working model that could be produced for less than $100. They planned to accomplish this by building a reflector dish that could be quickly and easily made from fiberglass cured over a mold.

To make the mold for the reflective dish, Precision Board HDU donated by Coastal Enterprises was CNC machined into a mold and coated with Duratec, followed by coats of polyester primer and sanding. The next step was a fiberglass hand-layup using fiberglass cloth and applying resin by hand.

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After letting the fiberglass cure in sunlight, students pulled the fiberglass dish from the mold to find its shape flawless. The new dish is to be coated with aluminized mylar and fit into the simplified frame. By keeping design for manufacturability in mind, students were able to create a realistic solar cooking solution for fuel-challenged regions of the world – the first produced in North America.

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According to Mechanical Engineering student and team member Simo Alberti, “The project was a huge success. Precision Board allowed us to quickly and easily create a highly-accurate mold for our reflector. When we totaled up what it cost to actually make our working prototype, it was just under $100. Not only that, but we used it to cook food all summer long. Kebabs, hot dogs, pasta, vegetables – as many types of food as we could.”

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The solar reflector program is the brainchild of Dr. Peter Schwartz, Physics Professor at Cal Poly SLO, and evolved out of his larger Guateca program. Guateca is an ongoing project that involves annual summer trips with North American college students to the Guatemalan village of San Pablo, and serves as a cross-cultural educational platform for both Guatemalans and the US visitors.


According to Dr. Schwartz: “We plan to test the solar reflector in San Pablo this coming summer to see how it operates under real-world conditions. Additionally, our stateside goal is to produce 100 reflectors and see them operated locally so we can streamline our design based on feedback gleaned from the operators. Having the mold will greatly facilitate this task.”

Once the new inexpensive design is optimized, Dr. Schwartz plans to make the design public with the goal of encouraging eco-friendly, sustainable energy solutions worldwide. At the time of this publication, Cal Poly students had recently acquired an actual Scheffler Reflector for comparative research. They are also in communication with the people at Scheffler, who are very interested in this new design.

Additionally, through the SLO MakerSpace,, one of the Cal Poly students plans to run a workshop where people can make their own concentrated solar cookers using the Precision board mold.

For more info about the fascinating Guateca project, please visit:

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This is a time-lapse video compiled by Simo during the construction of the Precision Board layup tool:


Winner – 1st Place in Design – Human Powered Vehicle

The Cal Poly Human Powered Vehicle Team recently competed at the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) student Human Powered Vehicle Challenge West competition with their newest bike “Gemini”, which was built using donated Precision Board Plus HDU.

The event was held at the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah on the gokart racing track. The first event was the design portion and was held in the pit garages. A team of judges inspected the bike and the team was allotted 20 minutes to explain their design, safety, testing and analysis. The design portion shows their engineering, design and fabrication skills, and is the only part of the competition where race luck (good or bad) doesn’t play a part.

Cal Poly won the design phase due to their foam/carbon roll structure and its unique fabrication method that increased the strength by 30%,as well as the integration of solar panels into the flawlessly fabricated carbon chassis and carbon/kevlar fairing to charge their iPhone navigation system.

Here is a picture of Gemini in all her beauty here:

Next they prepared for the 800 ft. drag race amid cold (40˚F) and windy weather conditions with 18 others teams. The women’s drag race was raced by Katie Hahn, who had not been able to practice due to previous obligations and because of a test bike had been scavenged for parts, but still managed to produce a strong performance. She made it into the semi-finals and beat heavy-hitting Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at the last second. This meant they were going to make it into the finals against Missouri S & T, who you may remember from our previous blog: How Fast Can A Human Powered Vehicle Go?

Unfortunately, coming off the line, Katie’s shoe unclipped and the bike fell, resulting in a win for Missouri S& T. Both schools asked the judges if they could just race again but for no points or score, in the spirit of friendly competition. The judges gave the ok and Missouri won round 2 as well! Cal Poly finished 2nd place in the Women’s drags.

For the men’s drag races, with a “winners and losers” round running, rider Will Hilgenberg lost to Rose-Hulman. They then battled their way up the losers bracket, race after race. Upon making it to the quarter finals, they were matched against a very light upright bamboo bike from Long Beach. Not thinking they had a chance, they had a stroke of good luck when the Long Beach rider missed a shift and won by half a bike length.

The last win propelled them into the semi-finals, to face off against Rose-Hulman again. Culminating in an another extremely close race, at the finish line Cal Poly won by six inches. They then moved onto the finals against Missouri S & T, and  ended up taking 2nd place in the Men’s Drag Races.

The 2.5 hour endurance event was held on Sunday, and had a ramp, speed bump, tight slalom and a stop sign every lap. They were also required to carry 1 gallon of water, but only for one lap and had to have four riders including one female.

The team spent most of the night trying to get the landing gear assembly to operate reliably, but they finally gave up and cut a foot hole on the left side of the fairing. The landing gear hadn’t been tested enough. Because of this, the bike was falling down often at the stop sign. Long Beach’s bamboo upright was at the top of its class in this event, since they could easily accelerate due to their light weight and upright position. The last rider for Cal Poly, Matt, hit several cones in the slalom portion of the race, resulting in many penalty points. Cal Poly ended up finishing in 3rd place.

They were also awarded the “Best Crash” award when the bike went off course over a berm and the team dragged it back onto the course with the rider still inside.

For the overall score, Missouri S & T beat them by 1/100th of a point, 85.99 to 86.00! A competition to the finish.

Thank you to George Leone and Cal Poly for providing this great story!

You can see their Facebook page at:

Here are some pictures from the vacuum-bagging process used to create fairings from Precision Board Plus molds: