Team 7


Project Overview  |  Proof of Concept  |  Final Design  |  Fabrication  |  Testing and Results  |  Meet the Team  |  Acknowledgements

Project Overview

The goal of the Orca Tongue Team is to design a trailer that will change position based on speed in order to increase fuel efficiency. In addition to the new design, it should be able to perform traditional trailer functions such as brake lights, reverse indicators, and turn signals.

The Orca Tongue Team also created a list of Project Design Requirements. The product should be waterproof, dustproof, and weatherproof. The product must be able to accurately and repeatedly measure the speed of the vehicle and easily adjust accordingly from the measurement. Product should last at least 15 years and parts must be easily replaceable. And the product should abide by all traffic laws. The complete list of requirements can be found in the PDS from document OC003 from Team 7.


Proof of Concept

To validate the design for the trailer, the team will be conducting 4 different proof of concept tests to ensure the design of the product. The first test will be to design a 3D model of an SUV and a trailer that will be put through an airflow test in a flow simulation program. This will validate that the distance of the trailer from the vehicle does in fact affect the airflow. Using this concept, the Turtle Tongue Team will show that the force exerted on the trailer is larger when the trailer is at a normal towing distance than when the trailer is closer to the vehicle, proving that changing the position will increase fuel economy. The second test will be to print the 3D models which will then be placed into a wind tunnel and the airflow around the vehicle and the trailer will be observed. During this test, the team will be able to physically observe the flow of air around the vehicle and the trailer and how the distance change affects the airflow. The third test will be to test the mechanism that will be moving the trailer during transportation. The team will be hanging the mechanism from a frame and adding weight to a nut on the power screw. This test is to ensure that the designed power screw assembly will be able to overcome the forces of the trailer during travel. Finally, an electric loading test will be conducted. This test will prove that the trailer plug on the SUV will supply sufficient power to run the motor and electronics used in the trailer design without draining the car’s battery.


Final design

The purpose of the Turtle Tongue’s design is to create a trailer that will decrease wind resistance and in turn, save the user gas and money. The concept of the design is that the trailer will be constantly measuring the speed of the vehicle and, depending on it’s speed, adjusting the position of the trailer in order to accomplish the goal of reducing wind resistance. As the vehicle increases its speed, the trailer will move closer to the rear of the vehicle to decrease the turbulence created between the vehicle and the trailer. When the vehicle is slowing down, the trailer will extend to its farthest position, allowing the driver to make sharper turns while moving at slower speeds.

The design consists of a modified trailer that will measure the speed of the vehicle using a light gate with a notched disk. Pre-programmed speed ranges will be used to determine the appropriate position for the trailer tongue. The speed measurement, that will serve as the input for the trailer’s controller, will be compared to the speed ranges and a position will be chosen. The controller will then send the signal to the two stepper motors which will then turn the connected ball screws to the programmed distance. When the trailer has reached the desired distance, a current will be supplied to the motors in order to maintain that position.



An existing trailer was purchased that acted as the template and base for the new trailer design. The front half with the tongue was removed from the trailer using a hand plasma cutter. Tubing was cut to size and welded together to make the new tongue portion of the trailer. The new trailer tongue slid into the existing trailer frame. Subassemblies including the ball screws, motors, and electronics were mounted to the trailer. Finally, the wood planks for the trailer bed were reattached in such a way that the boards can be lifted on one side.



Testing and Results

The Turtle Tongue team worked to accomplish the tasks laid out in the design specification document that was compiled by the team prior to the design process when building the trailer for Innovation Day.

The first specification was that the design of the trailer must be weather, water, and dust proof. To accomplish this, the team used rubber gaskets and filters to seal off the motor box that contained all of the electronics for the trailer. The second design specification is that the design must be configurable to multiple trailer sizes. The team chose a specific trailer size to build off of. However, the design may be incorporated into many different sizes with some modifications to some of the parts, such as longer rails and ball screws for a longer trailer. The next specification was that the trailer must be able to connect to a standard trailer hitch ball. Since the team purchased an existing trailer to modify, the ball hitch was already a standard size for towing.The next design specification is that the trailer should last at least fifteen years. Unfortunately, the Turtle Tongue team is not able to accurately confirm this specification without further testing, However, the team is confident that the final product should be able to last at least a few years based on other design product specifications that were satisfied and the results of Innovation Day showing.The team also chose to make sure that the design is easy to build and replacement parts can be easily installed. The team accomplished this by making the wooden boards on the bed of the trailer lift easily. As displayed on Innovation Day, the trailer’s boards all lift to the left side of the wooden board, opening up the bed to the trailer’s main frame. This made the parts easily accessible for both building and repairs. Finally, the trailer must abide by all traffic law requirements. The team made sure that the trailer had the proper wiring setup to allow for running lights, brake lights, and turn signals. Although the team would like to have done further testing on the product, the team is confident in the original design and was able to meet the design specifications chosen prior to the design process.



Meet the Team


Dwight Boyko

Born and raised in Fairfield, CA and came to Reno in the fall of 2011 to study Mechanical Engineering at UNR. Dwight has been working at the DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library for almost four years and have become one of the Tech Wranglers at the library to help anyone and everyone learn 3D modeling, 3D scanning, 3D printing and other technology offered at the DeLaMare. He has been using Solidworks for over years now, and plans on taking several of the Solidworks Certifications to use for his future career. Currently Dwight has helped many students and people from the Reno community make their inventions into a reality. Due to his experience in this, he has a few ideas he hopes to patent for the future, while also hoping to use his Solidworks and 3D printing experience to land a career doing Research & Development.



Quinn Chapman

Quinn Chapman is a senior in mechanical engineering at UNR. Born and raised in Reno, Quinn has always been interested in automotive design and hopes to have a career in the automotive industry. His work ethic and quick learning skills are valuable assets that have helped him in both school and work. Currently working at the Innovation Center Makerspace, he has gained valuable experience with 3D printer operation and design while working in a professional environment.




Stephen Downs

Stephen Downs was born in Southern California, but was raised in Reno and considers it his home.  Throughout his life, Stephen has been described as a future engineer.  He maintains an analytic mindset and has used his skills to excel through his academic career at the University of Nevada, Reno.  He has worked in the field for nearly two years at The Hamilton Company as an intern, gaining knowledge one can only obtain on the job.  Stephen’s academic accomplishments include proficiency in Matlab, Labview, Solidworks and Creo for 3D modeling, as well as other useful programs. During the latter half of his life, Stephen has found a passion for the themed entertainment industry, which has driven his choice of Mechanical Engineering as a career.  After graduation he plans to work in this industry, ultimately desiring to work for Walt Disney Imagineering designing themed rides and environments for people to enjoy.


Kyle Pierce

Kyle Pierce has wanted to be an engineer for most of his life. Originally from Oakland, California, he came to UNR in the fall of 2013. He is a senior studying mechanical engineering. He currently interns at IGT in the hardware engineering department, where he has gained valuable knowledge about design, manufacturing, and engineering as part of a business. After graduation, he plans to earn a Masters in Business Administration.





Melissa McCabe

Born and raised in Nevada, Melissa McCabe is a proud Reno native. During her college career at the University of Nevada, Reno, Melissa has earned top grades and garnered training and experience in SolidWorks, LabView, Matlab, and much more. The experience she has gained in pursuit of her mechanical engineering degree has aided her in her internship at Jensen MetalTech, and will continue to help her in her future career endeavors. Following her graduation in May 2017, Melissa intends to pursue a career in design engineering with the hopes of one day opening her own business based on a unique invention.