Clarkson, UW Madison Win Clean Snowmobile Challenge
By Marcia Goodrich | Published
A three-person team—two of them freshmen—from Clarkson University won the internal combustion division of the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge.
“We used a very simplistic design based on a Polaris FST chassis,” said team leader Pete Giovenco. “We just wanted to make it to the competition, but it’s been the experience of a lifetime.”
Hosted by Michigan Technological University, the Clean Snowmobile Challenge is the Society of Automotive Engineers' newest collegiate design competition. Engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and reengineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance.
Event co-organizer Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center, said that in Clarkson’s case, simplicity paid off. “They just boosted the pressure on their fuel pump and added a catalytic converter,” he said, adding, “They deserved to win.”
Clarkson also received the Lotus Engineering and Horiba Instruments Award for Lowest Emissions and the EMITEC Award for Best Value, which balances cost, fuel economy and performance.
All entries in the challenge’s internal combustion division were required to run on biofuel, and most, including Clarkson, chose E85 ethanol. Four schools competed in the zero emissions division, which was won by the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
UW Madison team leader Nick Rakovec credited excellent advising and teamwork for the battery-powered sled’s success. It uses a Delphi electric motor (once used by General Motors in its EV1 electric car) powered by 84 28-volt lithium-ion batteries and is capable of running up to 20 miles on a single charge. “We can charge these batteries in half an hour,” Rakovec said. “If the NSF takes it to Greenland, they’ll be able to recharge it quickly.”
The team has earned a chance to send members and possibly its winning sled to the National Science Foundation’s Summit Station in Greenland. Arctic researchers use electric vehicles when traveling across the ice, since any emissions can contaminate samples taken from ice and the air. “It’s an incredible machine,” said Tracy Dahl of Polar Field Services, representing NSF. “The thing rips.”
UW Madison’s zero emissions sled also nabbed the Society of Automotive Engineers Award for Best Design in its class, first place for the Kreider and Associates Award for Best Paper, the DENSO Award for Best Ride, the Veco Polar Resource Range Event Award, and the Caterpillar Corporation Innovation Award.
Taking the Yellowstone National Park Award for Second Place in internal combustion was the University of Idaho, which also won the PCB Group Award for the Quietest Snowmobile (an unusual feat for a two-stroke engine) and the International Engineering and Manufacturing (Woody’s) Award for Best Acceleration. In addition, Idaho took second place in the Kreider and Associates Best Paper event.
The University of Wisconsin–Platteville received the American Council of Snowmobile Associations Award for Third Place in the internal combustion division, as well as the Polaris Industries Award for Best Handling and the Aristo Award for most improved snowmobile team.
Michigan Technological University earned the ThermoAnalytics Award for Fourth Place in the internal combustion division, plus the Land and Sea Award for Best Performance.
UW Madison’s internal combustion sled took the SAE Milwaukee Chapter Award for Fifth Place, plus the BlueRibbon Coalition Award for Most Practical Solution balancing cost, noise and emissions; the Society of Automotive Engineers Award for Best Design in the internal combustion class, and third place in the best paper competition.
Kettering University received the Gage Products Award for Best Fuel Economy. The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology zero emissions sled earned the Keweenaw Research Center Draw Bar Pull Award. The University of Maine was given the Founders’ Award for Most Sportsmanlike Conduct.
Society of Automotive Engineers President Thomas Ryan described the Clean Snowmobile Challenge as a great opportunity for young engineers to learn the skills necessary to succeed in their careers. And he also praised their present efforts. “I rode a couple of your sleds, and I was impressed. You are leading us down the road that will get us back into Yellowstone.”
The challenge began following a ban on snowmobiling in Yellowstone due to the machines’ noise and emissions. “What you have done is prove solutions are possible,” said Jim Evanoff, an environmental protection specialist at Yellowstone National Park. “We support fully what you are doing.”
The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is sponsored at Michigan Tech by the Keweenaw Research Center and the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.
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.