Cal Poly's Strong Showing at Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge is a Singular Achievement

May 04, 2017

Contact: Amy Hewes
College of Engineering

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A Cal Poly mechanical engineering student team won Best Paper/Presentation award at the national Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge, and placed third overall. The event, held April 20-21 in Ames, Iowa, challenged teams of college students from across the country to design and build fluid-powered bicycles.

The team received four awards, including a second for its project cost analysis and a third-place honor in the Reliability/Durability Challenge.

The foremost challenge for Cal Poly was the fact that only one team member was able to make the trip to Ames.

“All four members of our senior project team were integral in designing and manufacturing the human-powered hydraulically driven vehicle,” said Jonathon Sather, a mechanical engineering graduate student from Los Angeles, Calif. “But two team members (Anthony Fryer from Castro Valley, Calif., and Daniel Schletewitz, Sanger, Calif.) already graduated and started their professional careers before the race. A third member, Tyler Momberger (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), came down with severe flu on the eve of departure and was unable to compete.”

A support team accompanied Sather, however, including faculty advisor Jim Widmann, technical staff advisor George Leone and Aaron Garcia, a member of next year’s team.

“I was glad I could be there to help,” Garcia said. “Having the only bike that was shipped and required assembly on-site was the immediate challenge, followed by a leak that had to be fixed between races. Most daunting of all was the sheer challenge of having to power through all three of the contest events — an efficiency and sprint challenge, followed by final endurance event — all by himself.

“Jon kept a positive mindset, and we all helped keep the bike in the running. His presentation showed his ‘fluid’ prose, and the fact that he gave the entire presentation by himself really impressed the judges,” Garcia added.

The event, started by Parker Hannifin in 2005, marked its debut this year under the aegis of the National Fluid Power Association. The format of the contest remains unchanged, however: In lieu of chains or gears, teams must use either hydraulic or pneumatic modes of power transfer.

“How we use those modes of power transfer is the essence of the design challenge,” said Sather.

Parker Hannifin, which specializes in motion and control technologies, was the general program sponsor this year. Danfoss, a mobile hydraulics company, hosted the event at its headquarter facilities and test track.

For more information about the Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge, visit

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Photo: From left, Jim Widmann, faculty advisor, Jonathon Sather, team member (2016-17), Aaron Garcia, team member (2017-18), and George Leone, technical advisor.

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