15th Annual Clean Snowmobile Challenge Kicks Off Next Week

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Michigan Tech's entry in the 2013 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge
Michigan Tech's entry in the 2013 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge

Michigan Technological University is gearing up for the 15th annual SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, set for March 3-8 at the Keweenaw Research Center.

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. They aim to reduce emissions and noise and increase fuel efficiency while preserving the riding excitement demanded by snowmobile enthusiasts.

In addition, the Challenge features a zero-emissions category, for battery-powered sleds, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. NSF uses electric snowmobiles while conducting atmospheric research in pristine arctic locations.

The public is welcome at a number of events, including the Grand Opening ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m., Tuesday, March 4, at the Keweenaw Research Center, near the Houghton County Memorial Airport. After the ceremony, teams in the internal combustion division will begin the Endurance Run, which includes a ride up to Copper Harbor.

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 8, 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 open to the public and are held at the Keweenaw Research Center Test Course.

The Awards Banquet is held at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, March 8, 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.

Fuel economy is a top priority in the Challenge, and this year, there’s a difference. Instead of running on blends of gasoline and ethanol, the internal combustion machines will use a gasoline-isobutanol flex fuel.

Isobutanol is distilled from corn, like ethanol, but it blends better with gasoline and has more energy. The entries will need to adapt to a “mystery blend,” a fuel recipe that contains anything from 16 to 32 percent isobutanol.

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

For more information, visit www.mtu.edu/snowmobile.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 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.