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Engineering students win national design competition

Sept. 4, 2007

KALAMAZOO--A team of three engineering students from Western Michigan University won this year's national Parker Hannifin Chainless Challenge, a hydraulic bicycle design competition held at the company's corporate headquarters in Cleveland, July 30-31.

The WMU group earned the championship trophy and a $10,000 cash prize, taking first place in the 12-mile endurance race and winning the award for design safety and reliability from Parker Hannifin executives. Teammates Manik Kapoor and Phani Chandar Sree, both master's students in mechanical engineering, and Francis Schlaud of North Branch, Mich., a sophomore majoring in industrial technology education, were the only participants to complete the race without pushing their bike. The group finished the track, which includes a 400-foot elevation change, in two hours and 37 minutes.

The annual competition is sponsored by Parker Hannifin Corp., the world's leading diversified manufacturer of motion and control technologies and systems. It challenges students nationwide to be innovative in the design and development of a bicycle that transfers the rider's manual power from the pedal to the driving wheel without using a traditional chain or other direct-drive mechanism.

Larry Schrader, global manager of training for Parker Hannifin's hydraulics group, says the challenge was developed to give students a realistic, hands-on experience that encompasses everything they've learned in their engineering courses, from identifying a problem to testing possible solutions.

"We want to help our partner lab schools produce a problem solver," Schrader says. "Parker, along with most of our customers, believes that in solving a problem, testing your solution is important--it's a step that cannot be eliminated. That's why we designed the challenge. It simulates the final testing stage where you succeed in solving a problem or you fail, and if you fail, you go back and analyze why that happened."

WMU competed against teams from California State Polytechnic University, Cleveland State University, Murray State University, Purdue University, University of Akron, University of California-Irvine, University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

WMU's Chainless Challenge team was led by Dr. Alamgir Choudhury, associate professor, and Dr. Pavel Ikonomov, assistant professor, both of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. Others from the University who contributed to the project include Dr. James Kamman, associate professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering; WMU alumnus Dr. Stoyan Stoychev; Ananda Paudel, a graduate student in mechanical engineering; and lab technician Glenn Hall.

Parker Hannifin sponsors WMU research in hydraulics, pneumatics and motion control, and contributes significantly to both to the Parkview Campus Parker Motion and Control Lab and to University engineering scholarships. With annual sales exceeding $10 billion, the company employs more than 57,000 people in 43 countries across six continents. It conducts business in some 25 commercial, mobile, industrial and aerospace markets.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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