More than Fifty Undergraduate Students Compete in the Parker Hannifin Chainless Challenge

Achievement date: 

Students affiliated with the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at the University of Minnesota, participated in three national competitions requiring teams of undergraduates to design and build bicycles using fluid power as their main method of power transmission.


The Chainless Challenge provides undergraduate engineering design students with hands-on experience in fluid power design and development. Students learn how to innovate, manufacture, and market new product designs in a competitive environment. The Challenge increases the number of mechanical engineers graduating from CCEFP schools with practical training and experience in fluid power.


The Chainless Challenge is a National, inter-university design competition for undergraduate college students sponsored by Parker Hannifin, a corporate member of the CCEFP. It focuses on the design and build of bicycles or tricycles that replace the conventional chain drive with a hydraulic transmission.

Participating students make a two-semester commitment to the Challenge. In the fall semester, teams of five to six undergraduate students learn about fluid power, develop design specifications, and then complete the design, fabrication, and installation on a real-world bike during their capstone design projects course. In the spring semester, students further test and optimize bike operation while preparing to compete

Some 20 to 25 students from CCEFP schools participate in the national competition each year, with a dozen teams typically competing overall. The competition features three race events: a distance race, a 200-meter sprint race, and an efficiency challenge that allows only stored energy to power the bicycle. The competition assesses design (creativity/novelty, functionality, presence of renewable energy systems), fabrication (quality, aesthetics), design process (design report, cost analysis) and functional riding (efficiency, acceleration, and distance events).

In the 2011-12 competition, teams from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Illinois Tech (IT), the University of Minnesota (UM) and Purdue University represented CCEFP, with UM taking second place overall. The following year, teams from UIUC, UM, and PU participated; and UIUC took first place overall. Three teams again represented CCEFP in the 2013-14 competition. UIUC took first place overall while teams from PU and UM took second and third place, respectively.