Engineering Students and Street Luge Champion to Break 100mph with No Motor
Kagan Pittman posted on July 20, 2015 | | 8246 views
Professional street lugers race down a track.

Professional street lugers race down a track.

A sports enthusiast clad in leather and protective gear, lying on his or her back on a sled akin to a skateboard, rocketing down hillside streets: This is street luging. The current speed record of 97.8 mph is held by Cedric Touchette, a Canadian luger.

David Dean, an Ohio State University (OSU) alumnus and two-time street luger champion, is teaming up with OSU engineering grads to topple this record. The group plans on creating a unique sled for Dean in hopes of reaching 100 mph.

Dean’s drive to beat the record comes from a history of obsession with the sport. First racing at the age of 15, Dean is now a professional luger, states an article by Nolly Dakroury with The Columbus Dispatch.

The project started after Dean brought the idea to Bob Rhoads, the capstone-program coordinator for multidisciplinary engineering and Cliff Whitfield, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

The record will push Dean’s experience as a luger to the extreme. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone faster than low 80s,” Dean said.

Two aerospace engineering and two physics engineering grads from OSU started the project with little to no knowledge of the sport. “We didn’t know where to start,” said Steven Fry, an aerospace engineering graduate.

Familiarizing themselves with rule books, YouTube videos and meetings with Dean, the team began working on their sleds prototype. Compared to traditional sleds, their version included:

  • A rear fairing, usually mounted on airplanes and bikes to help minimize wind drag,
  • A nose cone, extending from the front of the sled under the seat to create a smoother flow and
  • A chest piece to redirect wind up and around Dean’s helmet to further resist wind drag.

Once fully designed, the prototype was tested through simulation software and in a wind tunnel. “When you actually see the simulation match what happens in the wind tunnel, that’s very exciting,” said Dino Celli, an aerospace engineering grad in the article linked above.

Dean is working with Blackhawk Composites, an aerospace manufacturing company in Kentucky, to implement the modifications.

“This would be a very revolutionary design in the sport,” said Bill Smrtic, street luger and partner in Blackhawk. “It would be a game changer.” The company is currently considering whether a new sled with the previously mentioned modifications should be built.

A significant challenge in the team’s way right now is funding. Dean estimates the entire project will amount to $10,000 and is currently searching for a title sponsor.

Dean’s most important challenge however, is searching for the right track to safely reach the desired speed. This is important considering the extremely dangerous nature of the sport. One wrong turn or inability to turn at all, can result in severe accidents. Weather, road conditions, debris and local wildlife are all possible threats to Dean’s successful attempt at beating Touchette’s record.

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