Four sleds finish Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run at Michigan Tech

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Dylan Truskolaski of Michigan Tech, at the end of the 2012 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run
Dylan Truskolaski of Michigan Tech, at the end of the 2012 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run

A dozen snowmobiles lined up to start the Endurance Run at the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, but only four completed the trek: Clarkson University, Michigan Technological University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

The 100-mile course begins at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center. After traveling 40 miles on a snow-covered track, the sleds complete the journey with a ride on area snowmobile trails to Copper Harbor, Michigan’s northernmost community.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a collegiate design competition of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and reengineer it. Their aim: to reduce emissions and noise and increase fuel efficiency while preserving the riding excitement demanded by snowmobile enthusiasts.

The sleds’ drivers enjoyed sub-freezing weather and decent riding conditions, and all the finishers were pleased to have completed the course in their experimental vehicles.

“We had good trails and lots of snow,” said Shawn Spannbauer of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “And nothing went wrong with the snowmobile.”

Ben Edwards of Clarkson described the trails as “a little choppy in some areas,” but nothing that slowed them down. “We had to make a last-minute fix, but now we’re running great.”

Dylan Truskolaski reported that Michigan Tech’s sled ran well, “about what we’d expected.” Steve Ruesch of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville had a similar experience. “We didn’t have any issues,” he said. “That’s always a plus.”

Four entries were unable to start the Endurance Run: Kettering University, Northern Illinois University, State University of New York at Buffalo, and the University of Waterloo. Four more teams completed the initial part of the run and then had to pull out on the trail: the University of Idaho, Ecole de Technologie Superieure, North Dakota State University, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“I was surprised that so many of the starters made it to the second leg of the event,” said Jay Meldrum, co-organizer of the Challenge.

The Challenge attracted visitors from the Austrian city of Graz, who are interested in the Challenge’s zero-emissions category, for battery-powered snowmobiles. “Electro-mobility is a big thing in Europe, and we’re looking at electric snowmobiles for use in ski resorts, mountain rescues and hunting, where you need low noise and no emissions,” said Johannes Haas, a department head at the University of Applied Sciences.

On Wednesday, March 7, the teams will have their sleds on display from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Copper Country Mall. Everyone is invited to view the entries and talk with the participants about their design strategies.

On Saturday, March 10, the Polaris Acceleration Event begins at 10 a.m., followed by the Polaris Handling Event at 11 a.m. In addition, the zero-emissions entries will undergo their Acceleration and Load Test at 11 a.m. All three events are held at the Keweenaw Research Center Test Course.

The Awards Banquet is held at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, March 10, in the Memorial Union Ballroom on the Michigan Tech campus. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased by contacting the Keweenaw Research Center, 906-487-2750.

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

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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.