Organization to design car, help poor countries

Men in Kenya ride in a Basic Utility Vehicle. The Basic Utility Vehicle Baylor organization will design a similar vehicle in competition. The design may be incorportated into future models used in Africa.
Courtesy Photo

By Viola Zhou

As many people in Third World countries walk through hills and ponds in a struggle to get water and goods, engineering students at Baylor University are hoping to make a difference by building vehicles that can bear large amounts of weight and run on rough roads.

The effort is charged by BUV Competition, an event taking place in April next year organized in Ohio by the Institute for Affordable Transportation.

“The organization will design and build a vehicle specifically for solving transportation problems faced by the Third World,” said Flower Mound junior Sarah Johnstone, a mechanical engineering student who is president of BUV Baylor.

Johnstone said this organization is about applying what is learned in class and making a permanent impact on these African people.

“I believe there are a lot of students on Baylor’s campus who have this kind of enthusiasm,” Johnstone said. “But they have no outlet because Baylor has never had a project like this before.”

Dr. Douglas Smith, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is the faculty adviser for BUV Baylor. He said a more durable and cost-effective design of students’ vehicle may be incorporated into cars the competition organizer will manufacture in Africa. It is also possible the students’ original design will be used.

Smith said another benefit to having students participate in this kind of program is they can identify themselves as a part of humanitarian outreach activities.

The organization plans to complete the design in the first half of this semester and finish the whole vehicle before the competition in April. But money and space are the two challenges it is facing now, Smith said.

“We have to get somebody to look into fundraising and see whether we can get enough funds to be able to purchase things for the car,” Smith said. “And we have been looking for a place on campus where students can go between classes and be able to work on the car.”

He said he is confident solutions will be found to get the organization started.
Smith said he first came up with the idea to set up a BUV organization in Baylor because he saw an enthusiasm among engineering students in applying what they have learned to help others.

“It is a perfect fit for Baylor with a Christian mission,” Smith said. “Perhaps students here with a similar mindset are looking for a project they can work on and apply their engineering knowledge to help in some way.”

Johnstone said she jumped on board when she first heard this idea from Smith.

“I’m very passionate about helping people and using my skills to benefit other people and that’s what BUV stands for,” she said. “It’s all about utilizing your skills and applying what you know and doing what you can to help other people.”

The organization already has a design team composed of three mechanical engineering seniors and one electric engineering senior. Many other students have shown interest in participating as news of the project spreads.

Crowley sophomore Joshua Engle, an engineering major, is attracted by the concept of BUV after attending a briefing session.

“It is an organization that really has a practical purpose for humanitarian cause,” Engle said. “You can actually use your engineering skills to help people who don’t have the materials and power to help themselves.”

Johnstone said the membership is not limited to engineering students.

“We are going to accept whoever wants to be involved,” she said. “If they don’t have any experience with tools, somebody can teach them, and they can learn on this project how to build these vehicles.”

Smith said he expects BUV Baylor to last for years, but his first goal is to be ready for next year’s competition in Ohio.

“That would be successful just to get the group together for this common cause of building a car,” Smith said. “But certainly to get a car running in April and compete, that would be excellent.”