Human Powered Car

Project: Parsons School of Design Advanced Prototyping
Teammates: Yingying Yang, Gabrielle Zelepos
Duration: 3 Months
Honors: One of three product design projects selected for the 2015 Parsons Design Festival

This project was an exercise in designing for complex mechanisms, ergonomics, and CNC prototyping. My team and I sought to push the limits of how a plywood, human-powered car might both function and look.

The "Beast" is a human-powered vehicle propelled by the thrusting force of rowing. A 360-degree roller coaster wheel design secures the rowing seat to the chassis. The steering wheel is mounted to the seat and connected via a timing belt to an internal Lazy Susan mechanism that slides along a steering axle as the user rows. This innovative design allows for continuous rowing while steering. The large back wheel creates a slight decline to provide a gravitational assist as the user rows.

I helped lead design on many components of the project, including the chair, rolling sled mechanism, front wheel suspension, and internal steering mechanism. I also led the fabrication of the car's metal frame and wheel suspension frames. 


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Rowing Forward

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Steering Innovation

Unlike a bicycle or other pedal-powered vehicles where the user remains stationary, our rowing mechanism forces the user to be in constant motion, and thus the distance between her and the front wheels is always changing. 

The Goal

Design a steering mechanism that will travel with the user as she rows. 

The Solution

Combine the rotating mechanism of a Lazy Susan with the 360-degree encasement of roller-coaster wheels along a steering axle so that the steering mechanism travels along the steering axle to rotate the front wheels through a rack and pinion. This steering mechanism is attached to the chassis and manipulated with a standard steering wheel that is connected to the Lazy Susan with a timing belt. 


Roller Coaster Wheels

The design is roller coaster. The wheels are skateboard.


Models + Prototypes

Each mechanism included in our final design was tested first using scale models. We also built a full, to-scale prototype before building our final prototype.