Mississippi State is on its way for a possible repeat.
A university student team of some 20 members took first place overall Thursday in the second round of the 2010 EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge.
MSU was among 16 institutions represented at the San Diego finals in year two of the three-year competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and the Canadian government, among others. The competition challenges North American engineering majors to “re-engineer” a GM-donated vehicle to minimize fuel consumption and emissions, while maintaining its utility, safety and performance.
In separate, but similar, vehicle redesign competitions several years ago, MSU was the overall international winner. Many of the students involved in that challenge went on to work with automotive and other related companies after graduation.
EcoCAR team leader Matthew C. Doude, a mechanical engineering graduate student from McCool, said preparing the vehicle for inspections made this year the most rigorous in the competition. The team designed and built a biodiesel extended-range electric vehicle, he added.
“To finish a year of hard work and long hours in first place is an incredible honor for me and my teammates,” Doude said, adding that, of 1,000 possible points, MSU scored 844. Virginia Tech University was second with 691, he added.
Upon learning of the achievement, MSU President Mark E. Keenum said, “We congratulate each student, the faculty advisers, and all those involved in this tremendous win.
“We know that Mississippi State students are among some of the brightest and best, and this team has made the university and our entire state proud with their accomplishments,” Keenum said.
Overall, MSU”s team brings home 20 trophies from California. It won first place in each of the three fuel economy events, as well as first in three of four major presentation competitions.
GM Vice President for Global Vehicle Engineering Karl Stracke commended students who excelled in the competition to experiment with technologies and optimize fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
“These students worked tirelessly in their Green Garages building the next generation of clean vehicles and their progress has exceeded our expectations,” Stracke said.
During the second year of the competition, all teams used a “Hardware in the Loop” simulation, among various innovative automotive engineering processes, to move their designs from the drawing board to the actual vehicles. After moving their vehicles from the Green Garages — design and construction shops — teams then completed a series of safety and technical tests at GM”s Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz.
Similar to production vehicle testing, each vehicle was evaluated on its ability to decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and maintain consumer acceptability in the areas of performance, utility and safety.
MSU faculty adviser Marshall Molen said he was pleased with the hard work, effort and ingenuity students dedicated to the competition.
“I”ve never been so proud,” Molen said. “These are some of the finest young men and women you”ll ever encounter.”
MSU”s EcoCAR team designed a plug-in hybrid vehicle with an electric range of 60 miles. During competition”s testing, the vehicle achieved a 118 miles-per-gallon equivalent of combined city and highway mileage.
Tom Goddette, a senior mechanical engineering major from Pensacola, Fla., is a member of the team”s electrical group. He said the competition has given him hands-on experience in what he and others could do when they graduate.
“It”s nice to see how much work goes into these vehicles,” Goddette said. “This is a real application to what we”re taught in class.
“We look forward to the next chapter of the competition — with so much talent among the schools, it will not be an easy road to another victory,” he said.
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