Be Brief: Next Lap

Students wearing face masks and safety goggles work on an engine in a garage space, one with his hands on the engine and the other wearing a Michigan Tech sweatshirt looking on next to the wheels. There is a roll of green gauze behind them in a shop with a fan and industrial equipment in the background.
Students wearing face masks and safety goggles work on an engine in a garage space, one with his hands on the engine and the other wearing a Michigan Tech sweatshirt looking on next to the wheels. There is a roll of green gauze behind them in a shop with a fan and industrial equipment in the background.
The engine is successfully dropped into the current Supermileage Systems Enterprise vehicle in late 2020—a fitting salute to graduating members. Work on the vehicle and their presentation continues as the team preps for the June 2021 competition.
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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.

Play Sounds of MTU Supermileage Systems Enterprise video
Preview image for Sounds of MTU Supermileage Systems Enterprise video

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, 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.

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