Furniture Design Student Puts Knowledge to Practice with Appalachian’s Solar Vehicle Team

Published Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at 10:00 am

Industrial design major and Raleigh native John Lalevee poses with the unfinished solar vehicle, ROSE

 

By Meghan McCandless

During the 2017–18 year, industrial design student John Lalevee had the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream by designing the body of Appalachian State University’s newest solar vehicle, ROSE — which stands for Racing on Solar Energy.

In combining his expertise in furniture design with his enthusiasm for automobiles, Lalevee applied classroom knowledge toward a university initiative he was passionate about.

Lalevee, a rising senior from Raleigh, enrolled at Appalachian knowing he wanted to study industrial design in the university’s Department of Applied Design. He chose the furniture design concentration after taking a few courses from faculty who are also professional furniture designers. It was in these classes that he saw how furniture can have long-term utility and can be designed without creating much waste.

“Furniture has a unique ability to be designed very sustainably by using wood, a renewable resource. It’s also something that typically lasts a few decades and can function as an heirloom,” he said. “The program has excellent professors, each with unique approaches to what it means to be a designer, allowing us to develop our own design philosophies.”

According to Lalevee, the program also encourages students to focus on side projects that inspire learning outside of the classroom. In fall 2017, he joined the university’s solar vehicle team, Team Sunergy, after he was recruited by a friend for his design skills. Since he had no previous experience in automobile design, he devoted countless hours to the project.

“I taught myself the software the team uses and really started digging in, learning new things like aerodynamics and composites, things a furniture designer might not normally get into,” he said. “As the designer of the car’s body, I had to work with just about every other person on the team to ensure all systems would work in the car.”

ROSE is the second solar vehicle of Team Sunergy, following Apperion, which the team raced during summers 2016 and 2017.  Team Sunergy chose ROSE as the name of the car, which stands for Running on Solar Energy.

ROSE will function both as a race car for the Formula Sun Grand Prix and American Solar Challenge this summer, and as a multi-occupant car designed to better promote solar transportation to the public. For this reason, Lalevee worked hard to ensure the design was aesthetically pleasing.

Dan Blakeley ’13 ’18, who was the team’s project director during the 2017–18 year, commended Lalevee’s work on ROSE.

“The job John has done speaks volumes to his dedication and his craft, which has only flourished because of the tools and training he received as an industrial design student,” Blakeley stated. “He has created an aerodynamic design and a highly efficient form along with a beautiful design.”

When Lalevee graduates, he dreams about opening his own design studio. Between his courses in the industrial design program and his work with Team Sunergy, he’s able to obtain relevant work experience while developing and applying his design philosophy both in the classroom and beyond.

“Team Sunergy gives me the opportunity to work on a multidisciplinary team as a designer — something I will do as a professional — and something that is hard to get in a classroom environment. I call upon the hard skills I learn in class almost every day, whether it’s 3D modeling, sketching or fabrication of parts,” he said. “I also get to ensure that this car means something. It’s not just an engineering exercise, it’s about shaping the future of personal transportation.”

 

 

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