University of Virginia Human Powered Vehicle Team Final Report; Actor-Network Theory Analysis of Why The Charlottesville Transportation Network Is Underperforming

Author: ORCID icon
Sadler, Ryder, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Smith, Natasha, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

My technical work and Science, Technology, and Society (STS) research are connected via the thread of transportation alternatives to combustion-powered vehicles. The human-powered vehicle competition is an annual competition hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) that brings together collegiate teams from around the world who compete their recumbent tricycles in design, innovation, and performance competitions. This requires applied research into this field to design and manufacture a competitive human-powered vehicle that could act as an alternative to combustion vehicles for commuters. The STS research differs because it instead utilizes pure research by investigating why the Charlottesville Transportation Network is failing through an Actor-Network framework. The related research and the theme of transportation is consistent throughout.
My technical work includes the design, force/stress analysis, and manufacturing of a semi-recumbent tricycle for the HPVC competition hosted by ASME. Rollover protection, steering, shifting, braking, and fairing systems were designed during the fall semester after conducting thorough research into the field of human-powered vehicles and specifically sem-recumbent delta tricycles. The vehicle was then manufactured from a blend of off-the-shelf and self-manufactured parts. The design changed during manufacturing to improve performance and optimize the strength to weight ratio of the teams’ frame. After manufacturing, comprehensive testing was completed to optimize performance and to construct a lesson’s learned document. The lessons learned document was created with advice on how to improve design, manufacturing, and performance at future competitions. It was also created with the intent to foster a more continuous and iterative design process as the HPVC team continues to compete in the future. The teams’ attempt to design efficient and easy-to-use recumbent tricycles as an attractive alternative to combustion vehicles led to the investigation of my STS research.
The technical research led to the investigation of the Charlottesville Transportation Network. Having lived in Charlottesville for four years, the car as the dominant means of transportation has made travel inefficient, slow, and environmentally unfriendly. My research sought to apply the STS framework of Actor-Network Theory to analyze why the network performs as ineffectively as it does and why alternatives, such as public transit or human-powered pedestrian travel, have not proliferated. My research explores the mismanagement of human actors and non-human actors by the network builder and why their relationships have led to the underperformance. The research aims to increase scholarship specifically surrounding Charlottesville with city-specific data from VDOT, Charlottesville’s OpenData Traffic Portal, and interviews from local experts. The dominance of cars has led to pollution, traffic, and stifling of alternative commuting solutions and the research aims to inform the network builder of their ineffective management of the network.
Working on the technical project is what led to my interest in the Charlottesville Transportation network and why the STS research was conducted. Having the opportunity to investigate the failings of the network builder informed certain design choices for the technical project. The research for both informed the effectiveness of human-powered travel and how the transportation networks both in Charlottesville and in other cities will need to evolve in the future to adjust with changing societal priorities. In conclusion, working on both my technical project and STS paper over the past year has informed my awareness of transportation in cities and how design choices need to be considered not solely for efficiency but also for considering actors who will use technical artifacts.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Actor-Network Theory, Recumbent, Cycling, Charlottesville, Pedestrian Travel, ASME, Human Powered Vehicle, Recumbent Tricycle

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Technical Advisor: Natasha Smith
STS Advisor: Ben Laugelli
Technical Team Members: Joe Flynn, Kavi Patel, Lauren Weis, Riley Roe, Skyler Moon, Trevor Marchhart

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: