Dr. Eva Håkansson, the world’s fastest female motorcycle rider, shared her love of speed, engineering and ecology at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers E-Fests West in Las Vegas.
Held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in conjunction with the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, Dr. Håkansson gave the keynote address. Inspiring and inspirational, she discussed the wonderful opportunities for women in choosing a career in engineering. Dr. Håkansson also demonstrates that engineering can be combined with ecofriendly processes and techniques that can benefit the planet.
During her speech, she asked the question, “Why are engineers super heroes?” Her answer was that super heroes save the world in comic books while engineers save the world in real life. Engineers can create things and don’t need superpowers to shape metal or other materials. Engineers also hold the key to sustainability.
During the E-Fests West, Dr. Håkansson showcased her 270 mph (434 km/h) battery-powered motorcycle as “eco-activism in disguise.” As the owner, builder and driver of the record-holding electric streamliner motorcycle KillaJoule, she has broken world records and has become the world’s fastest female motorcycle rider. Her driving force is the pure joy of building things that have never been built before.
While she is very passionate about ecology, Dr. Håkansson wanted to create a project to “get gear heads that would never, ever consider an electric vehicle to become interested. I wanted to demonstrate that eco-friendly technology does not have to be boring. It can be really fast, sexy, fun and there is no sacrifice or harm to the planet.”
In March 2010, she began to design, develop and build the bike. Dr. Håkansson raced the bike for the first time after six months and has since raced the bike every year. She set the first world’s record on the bike at 138mph “which I thought was super fast and I did on my 30th birthday.”
The KillaJoule was build at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and was developed to break speed records. “This is a different way of racing. I am alone on the track and I am only racing against the clock.”
Dr. Håkansson obtained her doctorate in mechanical engineer from the University of Denver, and works as a consultant in the field of engineering, racing and high performance electric vehicles. Her husband, Bill Dube, is a research engineer at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Born and raised in Sweden, she explained that “engineering and racing is a genetic disorder I have,” since she comes from a family of engineers and racers. Her father built motorcycles, competed in racing in the 1960s and worked as an engineer during the day.
However, Dr. Håkansson was going to pursue a different career with a degree in business. But it was love that changed her life and goals when she met her future husband.
“He lived in Colorado and I wanted to come to the United States to be with him,” she said. “He suggested that I sign up for engineering school. I changed my path, had a dream come true and I married him.”
ASME is a not-for-profit membership organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing, career enrichment and skills development across all engineering disciplines, toward a goal of helping the global engineering community develop solutions to benefit lives and livelihoods.
E-Fests (Engineering Festivals) are three-day, two-night events that enable engineering students to expand their knowledge, test and showcase new skills and inspire innovation. The E-Fests West was one of three new ASME global events in the United States held at UNLV. Along with events, mixers and seminars; engineering competitions included the Human Powered Vehicle Challenge and the Robotic Pentathlon.
It was Dr. Håkansson’s first time speaking at UNLV and participating in E-Fests. “I love the event and what I really love is that for the first time, engineering students are the cool kids.” She also emphasized that engineering is a cool, fun and great career choice for women with many opportunities.