Elon student to travel U.S. in prototype trike
A university senior embarks on a national road trip this week in a specially designed vehicle that combines pedal and solar power to raise awareness of “green” transit in the United States while collecting money for impoverished Sri Lankan schools.
Elon senior Jesse Lee, a Leadership Fellow and a founding member of “The Trivelo Project,” joins Appalachian State University senior Tommy Ausherman on the 3,700-mile trek from the North Carolina coast to San Francisco in what the duo hopes will be less than four weeks.
“We’re doing our best to make a statement that long-distance, renewable energy transit is not only feasible but efficient,” said Lee, a native of Warrington, Pa. “This has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had at Elon, being able to create something on our own and have it met with so much support.”
Lee partnered with Elon senior Molly Schriber and Elon junior David Munoz last fall to form the nucleus of “The Trivelo Project.” The trio of environmental studies majors soon teamed with Ausherman, an alternative energy student at Appalachian State, and ASU alumnus Daniel Rhyne to build a prototype vehicle. Virginia Tech senior Christian Probst also assisted with construction.
Trivelo, pronounced Tri-VAY-lo, incorporates several Latin roots. “Tri,” or three, represents the threefold purpose of the project as well as the three wheels on the vehicle. The name also includes “novus,” or “new,” and “protelo,” which means “to lead.”
“After studying aboard in Denmark, I have completely changed my views on the need for automobiles,” Schriber said. “I see America's addiction to them and I see how we can change the mindset surrounding that. It provides an efficient and creative alternative to automobile transportation that does not rely on oil.”
The team constructed a tandem recumbent tricycle that uses solar power to complement their pedaling. Their trike reaches speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, Lee said, and it has storage space behind the two riders.
The $8,000 needed to build the trike was covered in part by corporate partnerships, including Belmont Textile and Machinery Company and T.S. Designs in Alamance County, which is supporting their cause with material and financial contributions. Team members hope to collect additional funds to purchase roofing materials, recycling bins and lab supplies for schools in Sri Lanka.
Lee applied for and received one of the first Hilaire C. Pickett Leadership Grants through the university to help support the effort. The project doubles as his Cannon Legacy Project for the Leadership Program.
Lee and Schriber, a Houston native, are part of the Periclean Scholars program at Elon. Rising sophomores apply to the program and, once selected, each class chooses a country and issue to study over the next three years as they work on a collective project toward global social change.
For their projects, Lee and Schriber initially planned to raise enough money to install solar panels on three Sri Lankan schools because the buildings lacked a consistent energy source. School administrators eventually identified other needs, which led to the roofing and lab supplies being the goals of their fundraising.
“The Trivelo Project is an example of Pericleans Scholars thinking big and then making their visions happen,” said professor Tom Arcaro, director of Project Pericles at Elon. “These students are raising awareness about environmental issues both here and in Sri Lanka and at the same time modeling what it means to be global citizens.”
The trip also comes at a time when much of the public is realizing the costs, and risks, of pumping for oil to support the nation’s energy habits. “The Trivelo Project is especially potent in light of the BP oil spill,” said Munoz, of Raleigh, N.C. “People may reconsider how they view the costs of energy, and I think that the collaboration in our project has resulted in a vehicle that inspires others.”
What happens in the next four week’s is anyone’s guess. Lee said he expects the travel to be most difficult in the highlands. “While electric motors shine in strenuous applications, there are always unforeseeable variables."
Inclement weather, exhaustion and vehicle maintenance will all contribute to reaching their destination by early July.
To contribute to the Trivelo Project and to learn more about Lee and Ausherman’s progress, visit www.triveloproject.com.