Pass the (welding) torch. For MTU’s Supermileage Systems Enterprise team, handing down knowledge while handing off projects is key to winning designs on and off the track.
Tasked with building a nationally competitive, single-person, fuel-efficient vehicle, the team loses members nearly every semester. It’s all good — graduates are leaving for careers where their Enterprise experience working on complex, multiyear team projects will serve them well.
Every year builds on the past. The vehicle body, or shell, which typically lasts three to five years, undergoes ongoing refinements for handling, stiffness and fit. There’s a new engine every year or so — normally a Briggs and Stratton Junior 206 — that’s heavily modified with fuel injection conversions, reduced displacement, increased compression ratio and the like.
Image credit: Supermileage Systems (follow the team @supermileagemtu on Instagram). It runs! The Supermileage Systems Enterprise team gets the engine in its one-person high-efficiency competitive vehicle. These are some sounds and sights of the process, from carbon layup of the body, to turning an engine component with a lathe, to manufacturing spacers to lower the vehicle's center of gravity (20-degree tilt test required for competition).
The team, comprising several subgroups including specialized Senior Design teams, documents data to keep up knowledge transfer year-to-year, from parts purchase records to design repositories. Experts in engine tuning, carbon fiber work and other hard-to-pass-on skills train incoming members interested in mastering the techniques. Team alumni step up to help with design reviews and other technical support.
Get to Know MTU Enterprise
Learn more about Enterprise and Supermileage Systems. Meet faculty advisor Rick Berkey, who also directs the overall Enterprise Program. Find out how to sponsor an Enterprise project. Join the Enterprise Advanced Motorsports Challenge over at Superior Ideas crowdfunding platform.
Other sources that provide multiyear continuity include SAE International, originator of several collegiate automotive design competitions, and Pavlis Honors College, home to the overall Enterprise Program. If the endeavor is an engine, then Enterprise sponsors are the transmission that keeps projects rolling along at ideal speed. With first place trophies in design for three years running and hopes to continue the record in the 2021 competition in Marshall, Michigan, Supermileage Enterprise team members supply the power, torque and rotation, a momentum that ensures continued learning, achieving and cycling through into successful careers — as Enterprise students have for more than 20 years.
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.