Clarkson Claims Top Spot in Clean Snowmobile Challenge

By Dennis Walikainen | Published

Clarkson University won the overall competition in the 12th Annual Clean Snowmobile Challenge held over the past week at Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center (KRC).

Clarkson took top prize in the internal combustion category and third place in the zero emissions category. The University of Wisconsin-Madison took second overall (and first in the zero emissions category), with Idaho, SUNY Buffalo, and Wisconsin-Platteville rounding out the top five overall. McGill University took second place in the zero emissions category.  The local team, Michigan Tech was sixth overall.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a collegiate design competition of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and re-engineer it. Their aim: to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or boosting performance. The Challenge also has a division for battery-powered sleds: the zero emissions category.

Seventeen teams competed in the event, including five in the zero emissions category.

“It was a great week of snow and cold for the Clean Snowmobile Challenge” said Jay Meldrum lead organizer for the event and director of the KRC.  “It is amazing to see the different approaches to the same design challenge of making snowmobiles cleaner and quieter.”

Anne Hawn, team captain for Clarkson, was elated with the results. Besides their first overall and third in zero emissions, her team claimed the Gage Products Award for Fuel Economy, PCB Group Award for Quietest Snowmobile, Polaris Industries Award for Best Handling, and DENSO Corporation Award for Best Ride.

“We were prepared,” she said, as she sat surrounded by teammates and trophies at Saturday night’s awards banquet. “We didn’t have any major crises; it all came together. We worked hard; we worked together. It was a great team.”

UW-Madison captain Shaun Spannbauer was pleased at their results.

“We did great all week. Everything went well,” he said. “This is a young team. It was a lot of fun. We won emissions and did well in noise, but endurance didn’t go too well.”

The Michigan Snowmobile Association Endurance Award went to the only three teams that completed it: Clarkson, Idaho, and UW-Platteville.

Spannbauer’s team also claimed the Society of Automotive Engineers Award for best design, in addition to the AVL Award for Best Emissions, the Sensors Inc. Award for Lowest “In Service” Emissions, the KRC Award for Draw Bar Pull, and the CH2M Hill Polar Services Range Event Award.

The last award goes to the zero emissions team that goes the farthest on a single charge. This year it was UW-Madison, which traveled 20 miles.

For the fourth straight year, SUNY-Buffalo had the only diesel sled.

Bill Predebon, chair of the mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics department and co-host of the event, praised the efforts of Meldrum and the KRC staff.

“It ran so smoothly, as it always does,” he said. “The KRC does an excellent job. And the teams are great. They had problems, but they stuck to it and were able to overcome them to continue.”

He cited the Tech team as an example of a group that fixed their problems and still competed very well.

Michigan Tech’s team claimed the Caterpillar Corporation Award for Innovation. On their zero emissions sled, they moved the drive axle to the back, increasing efficiency. They were credited for “excellent critical thinking.”

Zero emissions captain Mike Rittenour discussed Michigan Tech’s first year in the category. “We learned a lot from our mistakes,” he said “We want to come back and do well. We need to start in September,” he said.

“Let’s go start now,” a teammate shouted as the banquet wrapped up.


Publication-quality photos are available here:

Official results will be posted Monday on the KRC Clean Snowmobile Challenge Site:

and on the SAE site:

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.

Last Modified 2:41 p.m. March, 29 2019