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Speed Bump: Formula Hybrid Competition Student Engineers Tripped Up by Complexity

Jul 28, 2011   |   by Larry Greenemeier   |   Scientific American

With the market for hybrid automobiles picking up steam, it makes sense for tomorrow's engineers to get a feel for designing and building cars powered by a combination of internal combustion and electricity. Hybrid technology is far from an exact science, however, as student engineers found out last week at the Formula Hybrid International competition held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

Dartmouth College's fifth-annual Formula Hybrid competition called on student teams to conceive, design, fabricate, develop and drive formula-style hybrid-powered cars—weighing 180 kilograms to 270 kilograms—in a series of exercises testing their hot rods' acceleration, maneuverability and endurance. Before any car was allowed on the track, however, it needed to pass a technical inspection of its mechanical and electrical systems. Teams were also required to present a business case for their car as well as address their design objectives before a panel of judges.

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