Michigan Tech To Represent State in Top Car Design Challenge

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

Michigan Tech is the only university in Michigan selected to participate in a three-year international student vehicle redesign competition. The US Department of Energy, General Motors Corporation and Natural Resources Canada chose 17 teams from 44 proposals submitted by colleges and universities in the US and Canada.

A sequel to the four-year Challenge X competition, in which Michigan Tech and the University of Michigan participated, the new competition is called EcoCAR: the NeXt Challenge. It will begin in fall 2008.

Teams will re-engineer a Saturn Vue, using advanced propulsion systems and other clean-vehicle technologies to improve fuel economy and decrease emissions while retaining the vehicle’s performance and consumer appeal.

“This is the premier student vehicle design competition in the world,” said John Beard, associate professor of mechanical engineering and advisor to Michigan Tech’s team. “We were selected because our students are well-prepared, and they do a good job.”

Michigan Tech has been participating in these competitions since they began with Future Car in 1995. “And Tech’s car is the only one that has always been a hybrid,” Beard pointed out. “We’re also probably the only team that runs most of the time on snow tires,” he said. “This is a working car, and we are testing it under normal driving conditions, which often means snow here in the UP.”

By conducting such competitions, GM, the US Department of Energy and other sponsors, including the National Science Foundation, the Government of Canada,DSpace National Instruments, The MathWorks and Freescale Semiconductor, spend an estimated three-quarters of a million dollars on each team. “They think it’s worth it to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Beard.

GM has hired dozens of engineers who are graduates of these vehicle design competitions, and more than 25 percent of them have been from Michigan Tech. “And that’s despite the fact that we are one of the smaller schools in the competition,” Beard said.

During the competition, GM will provide production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and development support. Argonne national Laboratory will provide competition management, team evaluation, and technical and logistical assistance.

During the first year of competition, university teams will develop thechir vehicle designs using GM’s Global Vehicle Development Process, a modeling and simulation process currently used to develop all GM vehicles. Students will build, refine, test and improve their vehicles during the second and third year.

At the end of the second and third years, the vehicles will compete in a week long series of engineering tests, similar to tests that GM uses to test a vehicle’s readiness for production.

Other schools selected to have teams in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge are Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Georgia Tech, Howard University, Mississippi State, Missouri University of Science and Technology, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Pennsylvania State, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Texas Tech, University of Ontario Institute of Technology; University of Victoria (British Columbia), University of Waterloo (Ontario), University of Wisconsin-Madison, Virginia Tech and West Virginia University.

See www.ecoCARchallenge.org for more information on the new competition.

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.