Clarkson, Alaska Fairbanks Win Clean Snowmobile Challenge

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.

Clarkson University of Potsdam, N.Y., captured first place in the 2012 SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, which drew to a close March 10 at Michigan Technological University.

“This is our second year in a row, and it’s a crazy feeling,” said team captain Ben Edwards. “We knew it was close. But the team was awesome. We came prepared, and I can’t say enough about our sponsors who made it all possible.” Their winning four-stroke sled revolved around a 2011 Ski-Doo MX Z chassis.

Kettering University, of Flint, placed second, with the University of Wisconsin-Platteville earning third place in the internal-combustion category.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks won the zero-emissions category after a fourth-place finish in 2011. “It feels nice,” said team captain Isaac Thompson. “We learned a lot from our mistakes last year, and we made a lot of them.” Using a stock chassis, the team added their own parts, including small-format lithium polymer batteries.

Earning second in the zero-emissions category was McGill University of Montreal, with Michigan Tech finishing third.

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

The Challenge’s zero-emissions category, for battery-powered sleds, is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. NSF uses electric snowmobiles while conducting atmospheric research in pristine arctic locations.

“I think it’s been the best Challenge since we began hosting it 10 years ago,” said co-organizer Jay Meldrum. “We had the best snow, everything ran smoothly, and the teams all put in a great effort.”

Johannes Haas, a department head at the University of Applied Sciences, in Gratz, Austria, traveled to Houghton to experience the Challenge and how participants apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world engineering. “This is a fabulous place for learning,” he said.

Clarkson also captured several special awards, including the Polaris Industries Award for Best Handling, the PCB Group Award for Quietest Snowmobile and the DENSO Corporation Award for Best Ride. It also received the Emitec Award for Best Value, which recognizes the best balance between cost, fuel economy and performance; and the BlueRibbon Coalition Award for Most Practical Solution, for the best balance between cost and noise-and-emissions reduction.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks received the SAE Award for Best Design, the Aristo Intelligent Catalyst Technology Award for Most Improved Snowmobile and the Keweenaw Research Center Draw Pull Award. It was also recognized for submitting the best paper on a hybrid design snowmobile.

North Dakota State University took the SAE Award for Best Design in the internal-combustion category and the Mahle Powertrain Award for best engine design, as well as the Sensors Inc. Award for Lowest In-Service Emissions.

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology’s zero-emissions entry received the Caterpillar Corporation Award for Innovation, and the team earned the Bill Paddleford Founders’ Award for Most Sportsmanlike Conduct.

McGill University nabbed the Talon Research Safety Award and the CH2M HILL Polar Services Range Event Award, given to the electric sled that travels the longest on a single charge.

Waterloo (Ontario) University earned the International Engineering and Manufacturing (Woody’s) Award for Best Acceleration in its four-stroke sled by achieving a speed of 72 mph in 500 feet. Waterloo also received the HB Performance Systems Award for having the best implementation of the HB Trail Trac system.

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville received the Gage Products Award for Best Fuel Economy, for achieving 19.57 mpg on the Challenge’s Endurance Run.

The University of Idaho earned the Land and Sea Award for Best Performance, given to the team that garners the highest total score in the acceleration and handling events.

The Clean Snowmobile 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, 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.