Mechanical Engineer & Sourcing Lead on MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team
September 2018-April 2020
As a mechanical engineer on the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team, I am the project lead for the design and manufacturing of the accelerator pedal for our new vehicle, Nimbus. Additionally, I served as the Sourcing Lead last year, managing the $100,000 budget and all purchases for the team. Nimbus will compete as a road-legal vehicle in the American Solar Challenge, a 1,700 mile race from Independence, Missouri to Idaho in 2021.
Accelerator Pedal: Design
The original accelerator pedal was bottom mounted, which was aerodynamically inefficient, was heavy, and its potentiometer snapped.
In order to maximize the aerodynamic efficiency of Nimbus, we decided to switch to a top-mounted accelerator pedal, rather than the standard back-mounted. To ensure that this design fit in the driver box and was comfortable for the driver to use, the accelerator pedal went through several phases of prototyping.
I CADed the accelerator pedal and discussed it with the mechanical lead to optimize the design
Photo: Aditya Mehrotra
Accelerator Pedal: Prototyping
After developing several CAD iterations of the pedal in SolidWorks, I laser cut the pedal components from acrylic to test the sizing and get a feel for the geometry.
After the geometry was set, I waterjet the leg of the accelerator pedal from aluminum and 3D printed the mount to test different springs to achieve the best feedback for the driver.
Accelerator Pedal: Manufacturing
I learned MIG welding to manufacture the pedal
Photo: Christopher Kiel
I manufactured much of the final pedal on the water jet
I tested the compliance and range of motion of the pedal after assembly
Photo: Stephanie Hoo
I milled the accelerator pedal mounting plate
Roll Cage Prototyping
I created a wire model of the rollcage to test the dimensions
Photo: Jade Chongsathapornpong
The rollcage was able to fit a driver
The new rollcage passed inspection and is significantly lighter than the one from the last vehicle
The Vehicle: Nimbus
The pedal and roll cage were some of the last few additions to Nimbus that made it safe to drive
Right before campus was closed due to the coronavirus, we were able to get Nimbus a license plate, making it road legal.
Photo: Aditya Mehrotra
A big part of the team is traveling together. This includes many road trips to test the car. One of my favorite trips was to the Innovators Educational Foundation’s Solar Car Annual Conference at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. This was my first time in the Midwest and involved a drive (not in the solar car) across Illinois, from Chicago to Edwardsville, which is just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. I learned so much about cars (from both the road trip and the conference), went stargazing in rural Illinois led by our very knowledgable electronics lead (a physics major), and had the unique experience of watching the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl on a flight full of Bostonians.
Heading out to the conference in Illinois with some of my teammates
It was 20 degrees and snowing at the start of the trip...
...and 60 degrees and sunny by the end
Photo: Caroline Jordan