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.

Need For Speed: 2014 Human Powered Vehicle Competitions

Calling the 2014 Human Powered Vehicle Competition “One of the best in terms of teamwork,” Missouri S & T HPV team member Jon Sanders details the Missouri S & T experience at both major competitions on the East and West coasts this year, where colleges and universities all over the nation competed to build the fastest Human Powered Vehicle.

Our article earlier this year outlined the major technological improvements Missouri S & T has implemented help them win – specifically, building a three-wheelend chassis instead of a bicycle chassis and using a new type of carbon fiber for the body. “In addition to being a great teamwork experience, after two previous years working with Coastal Enterprises donated Precision Board, this year’s tooling experience was by far the best we’ve ever had,” states Sanders.


On April 11, 2014, the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge East competition (held at the University of Central Florida) began. “We showed up at HPVC East knowing we would need to complete the vehicle on-site, which is obviously the worst-case scenario because it meant less time for testing than we were accustomed to,” recalls Sanders. “Nevertheless, we did complete our vehicle and some testing prior to competition. However, once  the competition started, we realized that the drivetrain was about twice as hard as it should have been to operate. This was due to imperfect alignment, meaning we had to push the tires instead of roll them.”


Alignment problems aside, Missouri S & T faced an even bigger dilemma at the end of the Endurance race when rider Jon Sanders collided with another HPV from the University of Central Florida, sending him into a wayside haystack. The full consequences of that crash became evident three laps later when the steering column, pushrod and balljoint snapped while team leader Nikia Chapman was competing. Unable to repair the vehicle, Missouri S & T team members pushed/jogged the vehicle to a finish.

SONY DSCAt the conclusion of HPVC East, Missouri S & T still ended up placing 5th overall out of 35 schools, a remarkable finish after such serious mechanical complications.

Not long after, in San Jose, CA, HPVC West commenced on April 25th, with Missouri S & T in attendance this time with a much more extensively tested HPV. “We had time in between competitions to sort out our alignment issue, and also complete some additional testing,” explains Sanders. “We came into HPVC West much better prepared than at East, and it showed. Our car was performed beautifully until the end of the endurance event, when the steering column pulled out while I was driving. The only thing I could to was pound it into place with my fist every 100-200 feet to make sure it didn’t completely fail.”


“At HPVC West, we really came together as a group and were able to finish in third place overall,” states Jonathan. “Overall, I think the vehicle we brought this year was the best we’ve ever created.”

We’ve followed and reported on Jon and Missouri S & T for three years (since they started using Precision Board), compiling an impressive showcase of the progress the team has made over the years. Check it out and see how the team (and vehicle) has progressed!


2013 Human Powered Vehicle Challenge Update!

With the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge West competition coming up mid-April, last year’s champions at the Missouri University of Science and Technology are hard at work building this year’s HPV.

Fortunately for us, keeping in touch with Lead Fairing Engineer Jon Sanders means we have early access to pictures of the 2013 HPV coming together. You may remember Jon from last years blog: How Fast Can A Human Powered Vehicle Go?.

According to Jon, because of an improved SolidWorks design of the body, the 2013 “Colossus” HPV will be much more aerodynamic than last year’s “Kronos.” SolidWorks 3D CAD and Analysis software allowed the team to design the HPV and analyze airflow before the physical model was built.

This year, the mold was built using Precision Board Plus PBLT-10 and was CNC machined by .


After they received the machined Precision Board mold, the team members coated it with 5 coats of a Minwax fast-drying polyester sealer. A Duratec high gloss sealer, followed by an Orange Tooling Gelcoat application finalized the molds. After the molds were ready, the fairings were layed-up using a wet layup and vacuum bag method. Once curing was complete, two picture-perfect Carbon Fiber body halves were ready to be seamed together prior to mounting onto the frame.

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Currently, there is much fine tuning being done before the April 12th unveiling of “Colossus” at the NASA Ames Research Center’s Moffett Field. Landing gear (which automatically deploys at the finish of each race), headlights, turn signals and more must be added before the HPV is complete. Check out the Missouri S & T’s Facebook page for more info and updates as the race date inches closer.

Also, be sure to check back here for our after-race update!

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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: