Clean Snowmobile Challenge Gives the Nod to Aachen Head

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

A different sort of spectator will be stationed by the track this year during the SAE Clean Snowmobile challenge">Challenge noise test. Along with teammates and officials will be a silent observer: an Aachen head.

Set for March 10-15, 2008, at Michigan Tech, the Clean Snowmobile Challenge is the Society of Automotive Engineers' newest collegiate design competition. Teams of engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and reengineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance.

But just how do you determine what is quiet and clean? This year, challenge organizers are using some of the best available technology to find out, which is where the Aachen head from Head Acoustics comes in.

“The human ear senses noise differently from a standard microphone,” challenge organizer Jay Meldrum explains. The Aachen head, however, hears like a human. Roughly like a featureless bust in appearance, it “hears” though two receivers located where ears would be.

The Aachen head will measure the noise of the passing snowmobiles, and each entry that passes a minimum standard will receive 150 points. Teams can also earn points for extra quietness and for the quality of their sound, which will be judged subjectively by a panel of volunteers.

Challenge officials are also considering changing their pollution tests. Sensors Inc. of Ann Arbor will demonstrate its SEMTECH portable emissions analyzer, and officials will try it out it on the trail. Since it’s fair to say that typical snowmobilers virtually never run their sleds in a lab, testing emissions accurately on the trail should provide a better measure of how clean these clean snowmobiles actually are. “If it’s successful, we’ll make this an event next year,” Meldrum said.

These and other new technologies are giving an added dimension to the Clean Snowmobile Challenge. “We’ve improved the challenge by adding a series of technical demonstrations and talks,” he said. “It will give the students a chance to learn about the technology, and it will give the sponsoring companies a chance to let everyone know about their products.”

The public is welcome at several events. The Grand Opening, at 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 11, kicks off the Endurance Run, from the Keweenaw Research Center to Copper Harbor. At the Clean Snowmobile Challenge Preview, set for Wednesday, March 12, the sleds will be on display at the Copper Country Mall from 6 to 8 p.m.

On Saturday, March 15, the Polaris Acceleration Event begins at 10 a.m. followed by the Polaris Handling Event at 11 a.m., both at the Keweenaw Research Center. Come prepared to walk in snow.

The challenge concludes with the awards banquet on Saturday, at 6 p.m., in the Memorial Union Ballroom.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is sponsored at Michigan Tech by the Department of Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics and the Keweenaw Research Center.

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.