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Last weekend, the MSOE Supermileage Vehicle team had some big, important work to do: laying out the carbon fiber for the lower half of the body and the car frame (the piece the driver half sits/half lays on).  I know there are some pretty complex steps involved, so I’ll leave the explaining to the rest of the team (you can expect a video of the process soon!).  But essentially, three layers of carbon fiber are glued together and put in a giant vacuum sealer to cure for about four or five days.  And then, voila!  A gorgeous carbon fiber body!

Bottom body

There it is - the bottom of the body.

Not everyone was helping out with the body, though.  About half of the team was in the machine shop, working hard on the steering and other mechanical components of the vehicle.  I got a chance to speak with most of the team members; you can look forward to a video about the team in the future, too.

Frame

Everything is moving right along.

Frame

Not your typical driver's seat, huh?

But as the team was sitting around answering all my questions, something interesting came up.  One of the guys said he hoped people realize just how much time was put into this project.  Sven, team president, disagreed.

“Our time doesn’t matter to anyone except us,” Sven said.  “We know how much time we put in, but everyone else will just care about the finished product.”

His comment got me thinking.  Sven’s probably right; no one will care about the thousands of collective hours he and his teammates have put into this car (even though I definitely think they shoul).  But I don’t think that problem is singular to the MSOE SMV.  I think people tend to care more about the finished product and its attributes or flaws without realizing the labor and brainpower behind it.  Whether the product is a new car or a new computer or an innovative piece of technology, everything takes work.  Even the poor ideas or inventions often require copious amounts of effort.

I think if we can understand this, not just about SMVs but about everything new and different, we might be a little more accepting, a little more understanding.  Nothing happens overnight.  So if you want better cars, better computers, better anythings, acknowledge the work.  Acknowledge that people are trying and probably doing the best they can.  Do the best you can.  And put in the work, whatever else you do.

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As you may imagine, these SMVs don’t look like your average soccer mom vans.  They don’t even look like fancy sports cars.  These little vehicles look more like some space-age Jetsons contraptions than anything we’re used to seeing on the roadways.

(However, they do bear some resemblance to the first high-mileage vehicles: microcars.  More on that later.)

Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures of our SMV in its early stages.  But in the meantime, check out these videos to get an idea of what these cars are all about.


A basic overview of SMV with some examples of cars.


This team has been a huge competitor in the SMV competition – very innovative, very successful.

So do you remember back in the day when we all thought that by the time we got to the 21st century we’d be whizzing around in our space cars? Come on, we all thought that. We may not be quite there yet, but these vehicles certainly look closer to the future than the past…

Isn’t that supposed to be where we’re going? The future? Do we need to change our thinking of what an “attractive” car looks like? Maybe if we stopped focusing on old “tried and true” designs, we could soon be driving around something like UBC’s car.

This article has some pretty decent theories as to why new innovations can be difficult to implement.  And that probably helps explain why these college kids can be so creative: they don’t have a boardroom to answer to.

And that, if anything, should tell us something.

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