Clean Snowmobile Sleds Displayed at Copper Country Mall

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

MARCH 14, 2008--On Wednesday, March 12, the general public got a chance to see just what the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge was all about.

All 16 snowmobiles entered in this year's challenge were on display at the Copper Country Mall. Several industry representatives were on hand to check out the sleds and speak with team members.

“This is a big event not just for the community, but for the participating teams and industry as well,” said Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center and co-organizer of the challenge. “This event gives the teams a chance to network with the public, with each other and with industry.”

Arguably the prettiest sled was the entry from École de Téchnologie Superieure of Montreal. It features spooky images airbrushed by a friend of the team that carry strong symbolism: a scarecrow standing watch over a field of corn from which ethanol is derived, a goblin holding a beaker labeled “E85,” and an ogre on the hood with his finger to his lips to represent the sled's quietness.

One of the most surprising stories has been the entry of Northern Illinois University. Despite this being their first year in the competition and recently enduring a tragic campus shooting, NIU's was one of only four sleds to arrive in Copper Harbor to complete the Endurance Run.

“Success like that is no accident,” said Meldrum. “This is a demanding competition. They are doing things right.”

“The sled started as four guys' senior design project,” said NIU team member Tim Olson. “We only had six weeks to get the sled ready, and the motor didn't come in until two weeks after we had begun. We finally converted the motor to E85 the week before the competition. Many team members worked 12 hours a day, and we had to pull some all-nighters, including two the week before the competition.”

Asked about their goals coming into the competition, Olson said, “Our goal was to make it to Copper Harbor. We had been studying what other teams had done in the past, their progress and where they succeeded and failed, and we were confident we could make it there.”

“The shooting was a huge setback. It happened right in the middle of everything. Classes were canceled and the campus was shut down, so access to our resources was severely restricted,” said team member Matt Davis.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved in the shooting. We've been trying to use this project to get everyone's mind off what happened.”

“The competition has been really exciting and I hope our success will continue,” added Davis with a smile. “We're not done yet.”

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.