Interview with Sean Webb, GreenpowerUSA Team Mechanic
byMLombard01-30-201507:00 AM - edited 01-30-201510:02 AM
Sean Webb is an intern at Solid Edge who reports to Laura Watson. His job is to help build the GreenpowerUSA initiative. Greenpower is a program for school-age kids to participate in the design, build, and competition of small electric powered cars. This competition started in the UK, but GreenpowerUSA is coming to American kids
What is Greenpower?
Greenpower is a challenge that gets students involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) at the elementary level all the way to college level. The students design, build, and race an electric racecar. The cars are powered by 2 12 volt batteries and a .5-1 horsepower electric motor. To make the race fair for every car, the motors and batteries are supplied and cannot be changed. The cars have to meet certain safety requirements along with other certain requirements as well; other than that the teams are free to build the cars however they choose. The program is run by Greenpower which is an organization based out of West Sussex, United Kingdom that was started in 1999 and have been growing steadily since then. The kit cars that can be purchased come from GreenpowerUK. The non-kit cars are made by the students that are apart of each team.
GreenpowerUSA was created in part because of the success of TeamUSA and GreenpowerUK wanting to add other countries to their electric race car challenge. TeamUSA from Huntsville, Alabama were the first and only non-UK team invited to test the idea. From this, GreenpowerUSA was born and is home to the US headquarters to expand the Greenpower challenge across the United States.
How’d you get started in Greenpower?
I got started in Greenpower halfway through my senior year at Grissom High School in Huntsville, AL. I was in my second year of the Drafting program at the Huntsville Center of Technology (career tech school) when the Drafting program’s instructor, Mike Evans, was asked to reverse engineer the Formula 24 kit car that is available for school to purchase that do not have the finance to build a car from scratch. I was a part of the team to reverse engineer the kit car to be made available online for the teams in the UK to use to make their car in Solid Edge. As we were going along modeling the car in Solid Edge, I kept on bugging Mr. Evans to allow me to assemble the kit car so we could “keep track” of the parts we had already done. Really I just wanted to build the kit car and drive it! From this, Greenpower was impressed with our work that they decided to invite us to be a part of their races in the UK since we already had a kit car. Once the decision was made to attend the race, a team needed to be put together and I was asked to apply as the mechanic for the team.
Does each team have an adult sponsor or leader?
Each team does have an adult sponsor or team instructor. Our team instructor is Mike Evans. What he does for us is push our team to constantly improve our car and work out the details we don’t really know because we are students and have no experience in those fields. We also have several industry mentors that have stepped up to the plate and propelled us forward in advancing our car. Their names and roles are Greg Chasteen who is our Solid Edge and Mechanical Engineer expert, Ed Sparks is our electronics genius who helps us understand not only what different ways are to improve the electronics of our car but also how they work, and Brad Mitchell who is another Mechanical Engineering expert.
Can you talk about the kit they give you to start out your Greenpower car?
Greenpower has made available a ready to go kit car that is available for teams to purchase to get started into the Greenpower challenge. These cars are built more for safety of starting into the challenge so they aren’t the fastest cars in the challenge. The frame itself is 60lbs making it very heavy for a challenge that is all about the cars being as light and efficient as possible.
Did you do all of your design work for the car in Solid Edge?
Our team has done just about all of our car in Solid Edge. A set of parts I did for the latest race we were at was redesigning our wheel wells to incorporate the chain guard into them. Another part to them was making it so rain water would not have any chance to getting into the car. One thing I did to help with that was create a water bead on the inside edge to divert the water to the wheel opening in our car body/ chassis.
How did you learn the Solid Edge software? I started learning the Solid Edge software when I was in the 11th grade at Mr. Evans Drafting and Design class. How he likes to set up his course is start out on the drawing board with 10 drawing, then do 40+ in AutoCAD, and once the students finish with that and have a very good understanding of how to visualize the parts he moves them to Solid Edge with some of the drawing from AutoCAD then real world parts that may need engineering solutions.
What areas of the software did you find the most challenging?
What I found most challenging when I first started out was how to model in 3D instead of 2D along with the different user interface from AutoCAD to Solid Edge. But once I became familiar Solid Edge and how to approach modeling parts in 3D, I much prefer it over AutoCAD. When my college teachers give us the opportunity to make parts in whatever CAD program we like, I run from AutoCAD haha.
Design is one thing, but how do you go about manufacturing the parts you design?
How we at TeamUSA go about manufacturing parts that we design is first off with a prototype part made on one of the plastic 3D printers we have. This allows us to make the small changes we may need without having to go to our machinist to fix or redo. Once we have modeled the part designed how needed and fits, we make a draft file for our machinist at the Tech Center to make the parts. Or we can just 3D print our part and use it directly on the car as long as it is not one of the drive components or load bearing components. Soon we are getting a metal 3D printer that will allow us to print and use very complex parts made for the car that could be hard to machine giving us a bit more freedom while designing the parts.
I’m sure you learned a couple things through the experience of design-build-race. If you were to start all over again from scratch, what would you do differently?
If I were to start all over from scratch, I probably wouldn’t change much of anything. Okay maybe the time deadlines that we had to meet in order to race but were so close to missing due to waiting on parts to come back from being made by local industries here in Huntsville… Other than that not much of anything. We at TeamUSA have been very blessed with lots of success from our first car we built right along with all the things we have learned. In changing the failures we’ve had in the various areas of building our car, we wouldn’t have the team we have today. The car would just be a success and we would only know success and probably not know how to deal with the short comings we have experienced. Our team is like a family. We keep in contact with the guys and girls that have gone on to college and keep them updated on what is going on the car and team. Lots of our college members want to come back to working on the car and miss the atmosphere that is with our team and car.
If you had an unlimited amount of resources for design, what areas of your car do you think could use the most improvement?
Aerodynamics, electronics, rolling resistance, and materials used for the car.
Are there ideas that you saw in other cars that you would like to incorporate into yours?
I have seen a few cars have a sprocket set-up that allows them to change the gear ratios between races. This would help us when racing in the F24 and F24+ races allowing us to get more speed for the F24+ race that is much faster and shorter.
How is introducing Greenpower to the US going to change the competition?
I think it is going to change the competition quite a bit. We are introducing new schools into the competition that will have new ideas and innovations to apply to their car. We at GreenpowerUSA are looking into doing a regional here in the US with the teams that are a part of the competition can race in a heat to qualify for the finals in the UK.
Patriots or Seahawks?
Seahawks! That I’m aware they don’t deflate their balls.. Haha, really I’m picking Seahawks due to liking their colors a lot better. My favorite color is green and the Seahawks’ have green in the colors. I’m more of a Peyton Manning fan. Being that my college team is the Tennessee Vols, I tend to follow our former players in the NFL. My brother is a HUGE Colts fan so I’ll find myself rooting for them against anybody else other than Peyton.