Tuesday, December 18, 2012

[203] MTSU students far exceed alternative fuels' go-kart expectations

For release:  Dec. 14, 2012

News and Media Relations contact: Randy Weiler, 615-898-5616 or Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu
MTSU alternative fuels research contact: Dr. Cliff Ricketts, 615-308-7605 or Cliff.Ricketts@mtsu.edu

MURFREESBORO — MTSU electronic media communication major Ryan Skelley discovered “the best way to end college” this week.

In finals, three research project teammates and you race a propane-powered go-kart in competition against three other vehicles using different alternative fuels.

“Most people spend their last day doing an exam,” Skelley, a senior from Murfreesboro, said just minutes before finals and his last semester ended at 3 p.m. Thursday. “This is pretty awesome.”

Four teams comprised of 19 of the 22 students taking the alternative-fuels class taught by professor Cliff Ricketts competed in a drag race, a four-lap race and an endurance race.

The remaining three students worked on a special hydrogen peroxide-powered alternative-fuel vehicle (called “the mystery car” by Ricketts). They have been performing research for entrepreneur Duane Griffin of Murfreesboro. At Griffin’s request, the was not be photographed.

The other alternative fuels utilized were solar electric, ethanol and hydrogen. Ricketts said the propane vehicle was selected as a replacement for an originally planned biodiesel/cooking oil go-kart, but the expense of the small diesel engine exceeded the team’s budget.

“It went better than I thought it would and more competitive than I thought,” Ricketts said, summarizing the hour-long competition. “The kids were really excited. I’ll probably get two or three who will help me in the spring.” (In March, Ricketts plans a nearly 2,600-mile coast-to-coast trip using only solar and hydrogen from water.)

“The propane did as expected,” Ricketts added. “It had some structural problems that caused it to stop two or three times. The solar electric far exceeded expectations. The hydrogen (go-kart) never ran out of fuel. And the ethanol team had problems out of their control.”

Ricketts, who previously said the class is “the epitome of experiential learning,” said the ethanol team – team leader Chris Coddington of Lebanon, Tenn., Justin Dodd of Murfreesboro, Crystal Carney of Hendersonville, Tenn., and Zach Hitchcock of Lewisburg, Tenn. – ordered badly needed parts that were not going to arrive until Friday, the day after the class final.

“Too much horsepower is not a good thing,” Coddington said. “It needs a new carburetor. Once we put the ethanol in it, we got it to run. We just needed those parts.”

Senior and fall commencement degree candidate Jonathan Prichard, a member of the hydrogen-peroxide team along with Dillon Hagewood of Murfreesboro and Skylar Daniel of Clarksville, Tenn., called the semester-long class “an experience you cannot get anywhere else on a day-to-day basis.”

Prichard, a television production major in mass communication, videoed the competition. He will edit and upload it to YouTube.

Carney, a 2006 MTSU graduate, took the course as one of two continuing education classes she took this semester.

For Carney, a single mother, the class showed the “fun of how to become independent,” she said. “When you look at all the possibilities, we don’t have to be dependent on foreign oil. And if a bunch of college kids can build alternative fuel vehicles, the rest of the world can, too. The resources are out there.”

As a student at Beech High School, Carney took an agriculture class with instructor Dale McDonald, who was one of Ricketts’ early alternative fuels protégés.


Photo captions

Drill starts motor.jpg

With the go-kart propped on a cinder block and Chris Morefield of Franklin, Tenn., in the driver’s seat, Richard Hanson, right, of Murfreesboro, utilizes a power drill to help start their team’s hydrogen-powered go-kart, tweaking their vehicle before the Dec. 13 MTSU alternative fuel class competition. (Photo by MTSU News and Media Relations)

Start of race.jpg

Aras Alexander, left, of Houston, Texas, and Justin Dodd of Murfreesboro take off in their respective solar electric- and ethanol-powered vehicles as one of the Dec. 13 MTSU alternative-fuels class races gets under way at the Tennessee Livestock Center. (Photo by MTSU News and Media Relations)

Racing competition.jpg

Aras Alexander, top right, of Houston, Texas, in a solar electric-powered golf cart, drives past the propane-powered go-kart driven by Adam Kaauwai of Murfreesboro Dec. 13 near the MTSU Tennessee Livestock Center’s barn area. (Photo by MTSU News and Media Relations)


Three drivers in the Dec. 13 alternative fuels class competition motor down the straightaway near the barn area at the MTSU Tennessee Livestock Center. (Photo by MTSU News and Media Relations)

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