An electric experience

Engineering program pairs WSU Vancouver students with local design & manufacturing firm RYNO Motors

There’s nothing like hands-on experience – that’s one of the central premises of the engineering program at Washington State University Vancouver. Every senior engineering student works on a real-world engineering problem, partnering with a local design and manufacturing firm.

RYNO cycleThis year, RYNO Motors, creator of a one-wheeled electric motorcycle called the Micro-Cycle has teamed with five WSU Vancouver engineering students to conduct extensive endurance testing of the electric vehicle’s drive and brake systems.

“We strive to work with the regional industry through projects like the RYNO Motors project or through graduate research collaboration,” said Dr. Hakan Gurocak, director of WSU Vancouver’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Gurocak said over the past six years, WSU Vancouver’s students have worked on more than 50 such projects from industry.

“This gives them a great opportunity for interaction with the industry before they graduate,” said Gurocak. “It also gives companies the opportunity to work with future engineers they can potentially hire.”

The students are building a five-foot-high dynamometer test stand to gather data about the Micro-Cycle’s overall quality and durability. If something goes wrong, like melting wires, the students can suggest solutions, such as thicker wires or a cooling mechanism.

The “big picture” aspect of the project is what excites Granby, who will graduate this spring and start a job at Edward’s Air Force Base in California as a test engineer.

“We chose this project because it is multi-faceted,” said Granby.

Those facets include designing and building the test stand, devising a test plan (in concert with Oregon-based test lab, Cascade Tek), performing the actual tests, and providing ideas for improvement are all part of the project, due to be complete in a few months.

“A lot of engineers don’t get to see the whole picture,” said Granby.

RYNO’s Micro-Cycle had its beginnings three and a half years ago, according to Christopher Hoffmann, the company’s CEO. Hoffmann said he was on a fishing trip with his daughter when she saw a one-wheeled motorcycle in a video game and asked, “Daddy, can you build that?” Hoffmann said he rose to the challenge, seeing the opportunity to not only build something unique, but something that was fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.

After taking a machine shop class at a community college, Hoffman used common components to create a prototype. He then teamed up with Tony Ozrelic from Bend, Oregon, who had built a wooden scooter similar to a Segway. Ozrelic helped embed software in the Micro-Cycle that helps balance it and control the disc brake system. 

Other members of the RYNO team, said Hofmann, include Byron McCann (investment advisor), Tony Humphage (business relationships) and Van-Port Design Inc., who manufactures some of the Micro-Cycle’s parts and lets RYNO use space at their machine shop at the Port of Vancouver.

Hoffmann hopes to build the first production version of the Micro-Cycle in about four months. He expects the vehicle to cost about $4,200. It currently has a top speed of 20 mph, a range of 30 miles, and can recharge in 1.5 hours, using a standard charger mechanism.

During his interaction with Granby and the other WSU Vancouver students, Hoffmann said he has been impressed with their professionalism and ability to solve advanced mathematical problems.

Granbysaid all team members had post-graduation plans. Sierra Harris, the lone female on the team, expects to be a design engineer with a focus in automation. David Peterson will be working in design and manufacturing engineering. Karl Koskiniemi looks to be involved in automation and robotics in the heavy equipment and machinery sector and Steven Lakey hopes to pursue a career in racing engineering.

Hoffmann said everyone at RYNO is excited to give this group of students the chance to work on real-world mechanical problems and to refine an emerging technology.

“Because RYNO products were created to minimize the problems associated with modern city life – from limited parking and congestion, to fuel costs and pollutants – we hope it inspires them to not only use engineering to improve products, but the world we live in too,” said Hoffman.

Help for the Asking

Other companies in Clark County have the opportunity to get help with design, testing and product improvement through WSU Vancouver’s School of Engineering.

Granbysaid he and fellow students have given a number of presentations at local businesses, showing how their senior design class can help companies move ahead with projects. According to Granby, some of the businesses were not only unaware of the opportunity to team up with students on design and testing, but were unaware that there was even a WSU Vancouver campus.

Though engineering enrollment at WSU Vancouver has rapidly increased in the last few years, Granby said participation from businesses in the design program has actually declined. He believes the decrease is as a result of shrinking company budgets, preventing them from pursuing new ventures.

“We let the firms know that perhaps they don’t need to hire outside contractors for certain test or design phases, perhaps saving several thousand dollars,” said Granby.

For more information about the senior design project program, companies can contact Hakan Gurocak, director of WSU Vancouver’s School of Engineering and Computer Science at 360-546-9637.

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