VA Tech Student Engineers Shine in Underride Roundtable Presentation

Almost a year ago, I was developing a couple of ideas: 1) an Underride Roundtable and a Student Underride Design Project. I was looking in my email archives tonight and found a June 24, 2015, email addressing those two projects. I realized then how much was accomplished in less than a year with the organizing of the Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016, and the presentation by the Virginia Tech Senior Underride Design Team at that event.

I have pasted that June 24, 2015, email at the end of this post.

See here how the Underride Roundtable idea became a reality:

View the entire Underride Roundtable here in two archived webcast sessions,, including:

See here how the Virginia Tech Student Underride Design Project became a reality: 
VA Tech guard installed VA Tech Team with installed guard on rig VA Tech Underride Sine BeamUnderride Roundtable May 5, 2016 093 Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 092 Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 089Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 105 Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 103Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 153Virginia Tech Student Underride Design Project Presentation
And now I would like to publicly thank the Virginia Tech Senior Underride Design Dream Team. . .
Dear Wayne Carter, Daniel Carrasco, Andrew Pitt, Sean Gardner, Kristine Adriano. and Brian Smith,
     You did a fine thing by taking on the Underride Guard problem for your Senior Design Project. And then you did a fantastic job of working as a team to address the underride problem and come up with a really cool, outside-the-box design solution.
     I think that we were all impressed by your presentation at the Underride Roundtable. I hope that someone will make good use of your design work and use your ideas to create a safer guard. And I hope that what you have experienced this last year will continue to impact your ability to creatively engineer meaningful change.
    I know that AnnaLeah, who would have been about your age now (she would have turned 21 on May 15), would have been impressed. And Mary would have definitely thought it cool and awesome–what you all have done to make a difference!
     I was so glad to meet you at the Underride Roundtable at IIHS. I hope that you will keep track of the underride issue as you each go your separate ways upon graduation. And I hope to hear from you.
     I know that your Virginia Tech advisors, Jared Bryson and Robin Ott, are very proud of you. And I am thankful for their work in supporting you.
I will be forever grateful,
Marianne Karth
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Here’s the email which I mentioned from June 24, 2015, which got the ball rolling:

     I wanted to update you all on some things which have developed following our phone conversation.

     A year ago (June 2014), I became convinced that, if only engineers around the globe put their mind to it, better underride protection could be developed:
     Then, NHTSA issued the rulemaking:
     I continued to write on the topic and contact people about these ideas:
     Ted Scott, with ATA, responded positively to the idea of an Underride Roundtable, Jeff Plungis did an extensive article on underride:
     I began communicating with Mark Rosekind about the topic and John Lannen and I periodically discussed the possibilities.
     After we began the planning for an Underride Roundtable, I heard about Dean Sicking’s success in making NASCAR raceways safer with his SAFER BARRIER: . I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in participating in the Roundtable. He responded positively and, in fact, began describing how he thought that he could apply some things which he has learned and design a more effective underride prevention system. I continued corresponding with him and asked him to prepare a project proposal, including a budget.
     I have attached his proposal for your review. He cannot guarantee that it will work but is quite confident. It would take about $138,040 for his research team at UA-Birmingham to do the complete project including crash testing, with design & simulation about $61,048, and with design, simulation and building of the prototype about $88,000. IIHS has told me that if they thought the prototype showed promise, they could crash test it “on our dime.”  And Dean thinks that he could have the project completed in time to report on it at the Roundtable.
     Our family has just filed articles of incorporation to set up a non-profit, AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety, in order to be able to receive tax-deductible contributions for this project. We are making plans to raise funds–including letters to about 60 trucking companies and social media “crowd funding.”
     In addition, last week, I received an email from David Zuby at IIHS. He said that he had been thinking about the email which I sent out last winter about the idea of a college student competition for underride design. He had thought that it was a good idea at the time and had been talking with Bob Sechler at SAE (Society for Automotive Engineers). He said that Bob didn’t really think that it fit in with their usual projects but was willing to listen to the idea. I emailed Bob last week–who was out of town–and heard back from him yesterday afternoon. He is willing to have SAE (after approved by his committee) promote the idea of senior design project to the faculty and students in their contact list. He said that if they were to do a competition, then a reward would be appropriate and might take longer to get underway.
      Prior to speaking with him, on Monday morning, I had googled some terms when naming our non-profit and ran across Virginia Tech’s truck research activities. So I emailed Rich Hanowski there and he referred me to Jared Bryson, Senior Researcher Mechanical Systems Group Leader. I emailed Jared and he immediately had lots of ideas about it and said that if he contacted his department now and we could have a general plan by August 24, then he could pitch it as a topic for a student to select for the 2015/16 school year at Virginia Tech as a Senior Design Project. He said that April would be better as a time for the Roundtable if we wanted to be able to have the student present their paper at the Roundtable.
     Bob Sechler said that if we want him to promote the student design project (across the country) then we need to get him a proposal with background information and requirements. Jared had wondered if we want to do rear and side. I said rear this year because of the current rulemaking. There is always next year. He also wondered about whether to have them look at the side of the trailer behind the back axle.
     I had also emailed Ted Scott at ATA last week to let him know that we are working on the Roundtable and about the student competition idea. He suggested that I contact Brenda Lantz at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Research Institute. I spoke with her and she was going to be talking with her Transportation Board, Apparently, if they decided to do something like that, then they could widely advertise it. I still have not heard back from her on that.
This is what I need to know about how to proceed:
  1. I need help developing a proposal for the student design project–especially what we are asking them to build, project requirements.
  2. Would we like them to present their papers at the Roundtable?
  3. Can any money be provided to help them attend the Roundtable?
  4. Or would we put out a request for papers and select  1 or more for presentation (and pay for them to attend)?
  5. Is it crazy to have multiple organizations promoting the idea to students?
  6. Who should be the ones to judge the papers if we go that way?
  7. Could we somehow fund one or more to be developed into a prototype?
  8. Could we have someone like IIHS then crash test any prototypes?
  9. What are your thoughts on all of these possibilities?
      In addition, in my conversation with David Friedman, I came away with the impression that any research presented to NHTSA in the coming year would be seriously reviewed and could have impact on strengthening the rules if there is data and evidence to justify it–particularly if there is any kind of peer review and/or verification of the results, e.g., through crash testing by someone else like IIHS.
     Please get back to me as soon as possible on all of this. As Bob Sechler mentioned, we need to move quickly on this in order to catch the interest of engineering seniors. He suggested that we appeal to them by inviting them to work on a project which would be interesting, challenging, and valuable: they could make a difference.

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