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Meeting the Challenge: Rose-Hulman Has Best-Ever Finish in DOE's EcoCAR Competition
June 24, 2011
The lessons were many and the sense of accomplishment grand from
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's participation in the U.S.
Department of Energy's EcoCAR Challenge. The three-year
advanced vehicle technology engineering for a select group of North
American colleges has served as an incentive for the next
generation of automotive engineers.
||Colorful Vehicle: Rose-Hulman's EcoCAR sport utility
vehicle added lots of color to this year's U.S. Department of
Energy's EcoCAR Challenge.
Rose-Hulman had its best-ever finish in the competition, with
its modified biodiesel sports utility vehicle placing a strong
ninth. The team also earned second-place honors for the most
innovative use of graphical system design, an award sponsored by
The EcoCAR Challenge gave Rose-Hulman students a chance to
design ultra-fuel-efficient, low-emissions and high-performing
vehicles with 300 miles of range. Students re-engineered
nearly every component of a gasoline-dependant SUV, provided by
General Motors Corporation, with sustainable features.
Rose-Hulman was one of 16 colleges undertaking this
"As always, it was a challenging competition against the best
schools in the nation," stated faculty co-advisor Zac Chambers,
associate professor of mechanical engineering. "We had some
Original Equipment Manufacturer problems which kept our vehicle
from running as intended and cost us some valuable points.
However, EcoCAR was an unparalleled learning opportunity for our
In the first year of the EcoCAR Challenge, students focused on
the design process. Meanwhile, the designs became reality in
the second and third years. Each year culminated with a
systems and performance review. This year's competition
finals had the vehicles being tested at GM's proving grounds near
Detroit and test drives in Washington, D.C. The SUVs were
judged for safety, braking, acceleration, emissions snd consumer
|On The Track: Rose-Hulman's EcoCAR vehicle completes one of
the many tests during the Year Three competition at General Motors'
proving grounds in Milford, Mich.
"Getting this car to operate safely and reliably was a real
focus and challenge for us throughout Year Three," stated Jon
Nibert, Rose-Hulman's electrical team leader. "We're very
proud of what we brought to the competition."
Kyle Mason, CAD team leader, added: "It was so awesome to get to
test our vehicle at GM's Milford Proving Grounds. Normally, I
don't like getting up at 4 a.m. but to get to drive our car at
Milford was totally worth it."
The drive behind the competition is working with and mentoring
student engineers, stated Kent Helfrich, GM executive director for
electronic controls and software. GM's take away for
sponsoring the competition is the ability to meet and hire some of
the brightest students. Over the past five years, GM has
hired over 70 students from EcoCAR and its predecessor, Challenge
X: Crossover to Sustainability. Approximately 98 percent of
participating students have a job offer before graduation.
"I can't say how much this program gives them a leg up on the
rest of their career," stated Helfrich in a GM press release.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu also talked about how the
competition helps train the next generation of U.S. auto industry
workers. "With the experience and skills these innovative
students have gained through the EcoCAR competition, they will help
reduce our nation's reliance on oil imports and keep U.S.
industries competitive in the global marketplace," he stated in an
event press release.
||Happy Team: Rose-Hulman students, faculty advisors and GM
mentor were proud of the team's effort after three years of the
"As a brand new member to the team, I had no idea how high the
expectation levels are for EcoCAR," stated Rose-Hulman team member
Kenton Hochstetler, a junior mechanical engineering major.
"I'm really glad that I was able to see Year Three in action and
understand the expectations GM and DOE have for this
With EcoCar now history, Rose-Hulman's team already is preparing
for the next challenge. It previously accepted an invitation
to enter EcoCar2: Plugging into the Future, another three-year
challenge that, this time, involves a GM-donated Chevy Malibu.
"We look forward to applying what we've learned in EcoCAR into
EcoCAR2," stated Chambers.
Hochstetler added: "I know that I've got a lot of work to
Learn more about the EcoCAR Challenge at www.ecocarchallenge.org
and go behind the scenes of the competition at The Green Garage
View videos (many of them featuring Rose-Hulman EcoCAR team
members) at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SRa0Z7egEY