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It’s pretty easy to be pessimistic about the way things are right now. Looking ahead to the future, there doesn’t seem to be any major issue facing our country that has an easy solution. Think about it: the economy, foreign affairs, the health of our citizens, the environment, politics. We’ve got some big problems, and it’s pretty easy to get disheartened.
But there’s an upside (or at least I have to think there’s an upside – life would be way too depressing otherwise). Now is an exciting time to be working on this stuff. There is no clear answer, which means there is hopefully room for innovative, off-the-wall ideas. I mean, you’ve seen those SMVs. None of them will be heading out on the roadways anytime soon! But they can help us change the rulebook we play by.
(Speaking of those hardworking SMVers, the fiberglass molds came out beautifully and they’ll be working on laying out the carbon fiber this weekend. I should be heading down there to get a full report, so stay tuned!)
It’s really easy to shoot down new ideas when we first hear them. I do it myself all the time, even if I try not to. Believing in something, trusting in something means you have to put yourself out there. You’re opening yourself up to failure and disappointment and probably to mockery if you put your faith in something that didn’t work. Yet this is the way forward. It’s murky and messy with no guarantees, but think about how far we’ve come in the last hundred years and what might be possible in the next century if we can ignore the chips on our shoulders and take a chance on something that seems insane. You’ll probably get burned and lord knows there will be a ton of people ready to pick your bones, but do it anyways, because even if you never see something tangible, even if it seems impossible, one day you’ll cross the line from unimaginable to reality.
And then it will all have been worth it.
Don’t take the simple path. We all you’re better than that.
Keeping that in mind, we’re going to delve into some pretty unorthodox technologies in the next few days. Don’t shut it out right away. Just because things have been done one way for as long as you’ve known them doesn’t mean anything.
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.
I guess I should tell you what this Supermileage Vehicle (SMV) thing is all about.
Before I get into it, let me warn you: something you’ll get to know about me is that I have very little knowledge about cars. My brain simply doesn’t work that way. I think spark plugs are magic critters that make engines run. I just don’t get it.
But I understand the idea behind SMV. It’s a program run by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for college students studying engineering or technology. These kids are given a four-cylinder Briggs and Stratton engine, a few safety specifications, and turned loose on the automotive world. They have to build a one-person car that gets the best miles per gallon possible without bursting into flames or falling apart. The teams compete against each other in June, and then it’s “let the best tiniest skinniest driver win.” Remember, they’re going for gas mileage here, no holds barred.
That’s a little technical stuff. What drives SMV isn’t the dinky little engine, though; it’s the man (or woman) power, the literally countless hours the team spends scheming and designing and building and crying (at least inwardly).
And really, that’s what innovation is all about.