2013 Clean Snowmobile Challenge on Track for March 4-9

Clarkson University's four-stroke Ski-Doo won the internal combustion category of the 2012 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge.
Clarkson University's four-stroke Ski-Doo won the internal combustion category of the 2012 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

Teams of college students from across the Snow Belt will converge on the Copper Country March 4-9 for the 2013 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge. Their aim is to reduce emissions and noise and increase fuel efficiency while preserving the riding excitement demanded by snowmobile enthusiasts. And for the first time, anybody, anywhere can support that mission through the crowdfunding site Superior Ideas.

Challenge organizers are hoping to raise $10,000 to underwrite awards for the student engineers, who spend months and sometimes years fine-tuning snowmobiles to meet the demands of the competition.

“Students learn critical lessons about hands-on engineering and designing for the environment, plus the Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a huge asset to our local community,” said co-organizer Jay Meldrum. “Superior Ideas lets anyone be part of that by donating whatever they can afford.” To find out more, go to Superior Ideas-Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

A record 21 teams have registered this year. “We’re also looking forward to hosting two rookie teams: Queen’s University in Ontario and Rochester Institute of Technology in New York,” Meldrum said.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a collegiate design competition of the Society of Automotive Engineers. A total of 14 teams are registered in the 2013 Challenge’s internal combustion category. Seven teams are entered in the Challenge’s zero-emissions category, for battery-powered electric sleds, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. NSF uses electric snowmobiles while conducting atmospheric research in pristine arctic locations.

Fuel economy—no matter what recipe the fuel—is again a top priority in this year’s Challenge. Internal-combustion sleds will need to adapt to fuels with a range of ethanol concentrations, from E40 (40 percent) to E85 (85 percent). “If a team doesn’t design for that, they won’t do well,” Meldrum said.

The diesel-powered entries from the State University of New York at Buffalo and North Dakota State University will face flex fuels with a soybean-based content ranging from B00 (0 percent) to B9 (9 percent).

Winning sleds must do more than pass muster on quietness, emissions and fuel economy. They also complete a 100-mile Endurance Run, which is a measure of reliability. And acceleration and handling events test the entrants’ fun and rideability.

The whisper-quiet, ultra-clean zero-emissions sleds are rated on acceleration and handling. They also undergo load tests to determine their carrying capacity.

In addition to the NSF, major sponsors include Aristo, AVL, Boss Snow Plow, Coca Cola of Hancock, Dassault Systems/Solid Works Corporation, Gage Products, International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association,  PCB Group Inc., Phoenix International-A John Deere Company, Sensors Inc., DENSO, Mahle Powertrain, Emitec and NGK/NTK Sensors.

Local businesses provide services, donations and in-kind contributions. Volunteers from the Michigan Snowmobile Association have pitched in every year to provide logistical support and guidance to team members.

Teams registered in the internal combustion category are Clarkson University (Potsdam, N.Y.), École de Technologie Supérieure (Montreal), Kettering University (Flint), Michigan Technological University, North Dakota State University, Northern Illinois University, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Buffalo, the University of Idaho, the University of Maine, the University of Waterloo (Ontario), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Teams in the zero emissions category are Clarkson, McGill University (Montreal), Michigan Tech, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Minnesota Duluth.

The 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 founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.