Challenge X Team Prepares for 2008

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Todd Cimermancic graduates in December, and he has one regret.

“I’ll miss Year Four,” he says. “I’m kind of disappointed to miss the grand finale.”

Cimermancic, a mechanical engineering technology senior, leads Michigan Tech’s Challenge X team. It finished 11th this year, and while it would have been nice to win, he says, the team put in a solid showing.

With major sponsorship from General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy, Challenge X is the nation’s premiere collegiate motor vehicle competition. Seventeen universities from across North America were invited to to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of a stock vehicle while maintaining driveability. This year, the winner was Mississippi State University.

“We were happy,” Cimermancic said. Their gas-electric hybrid Chevrolet Equinox completed every event and got a few nods along the way. With a front air dam and fender skirts, “we were the only team to do aerodynamics work,” he said. “We got a lot of comments about cars from the ‘50s.”

“Our claim to fame is that we were the lightest parallel-through-the-road vehicle there, only 40 pounds more than stock,” he said. “We have one big battery pack that weighs 167 pounds.”

Their vehicle, donated by General Motors, features a four-cylinder gas engine powering the front wheels and a Solectria electric motor driving the rear.

In this, the third year of the competition, the Michigan Tech team honed in on what to do for their final year. “We’re going to work on our report writing and our presentations, and we’ll change our catalysts and do some emissions testing,” Cimermancic said. “We have a running vehicle, but we didn’t have time to calibrate all the components so it works most efficiently.”

That means they’ll have it out on the road this year. “It will be exciting to let the public see the vehicle,” he said.

During the competition, which was held May 30-June 8 in Detroit, the underlying educational mission of the Challenge was evident. “We are all competing against each other, but on any given day we were working side by side,” Cimermancic said. “We can learn a lot from the other teams, and they’ve learned a lot from us.”

Since Cimermancic will have graduated, he won’t be leading Tech’s team in 2008. “But there is a possibility I’ll be seeing the competition from the other side,” perhaps as an auto engineer, he says.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.