Student Team Selected to Participate in Global Automotive Innovation Challenge

Friday, April 03, 2015
Valeo Innovation Challenge team in the BIC.

Ready For Next Step: Members of the team developing an "active" suspension prototype for the Valeo Innovation Challenge are (from left) Colin Strate, Scott Johnston, Katelyn Stenger, and Christopher Wood. (Photo by Dale Long)

For the second consecutive year, a Rose-Hulman student team has been specially chosen to develop prototype parts to help create smarter, more intuitive cars in the future through the Valeo Innovation Challenge, an international automotive competition with a $109,000 first-place prize.

From more than 1,300 initial project proposals, 20 teams were selected for this important project development stage, with Rose-Hulman representing one of just two teams coming from United States' colleges and universities. Other teams selected for this prototyping stage hail from China, Egypt, Germany, Malaysia, Poland, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan.

Members of Rose-Hulman's team, all mechanical engineering majors, are Scott Johnston, a junior from Federal Way, Washington; Katelyn Stenger, a senior from Burlington, Kentucky; Colin Strate, a sophomore from St. Louis, Missouri; and Christopher Wood, a freshman from Tacoma, Washington.

With $5,000 in funding from Valeo, the students will have until July 17 to develop a working prototype of an "active suspension" for the wheelbase of "the car of 2030." Six finalist teams will be announced on September 1, and those teams will present their prototypes later that month to a jury at the Frankfort Motor Show in Germany. The top three projects will be announced during the show.

"It's just cool to be a part of this," says Stenger, who is graduating this spring, but plans to continue working on the project this summer before starting a job in the fall.

Projects are being judged on their originality, boldness, relevance to social needs, presentation, technological proficiency, and feasibility, according to competition rules.

Receiving announcement of the Rose-Hulman team's selection for this year's Valeo Innovation Challenge "was a cool thing to wake up to," remarks Wood.

In contrast to a normal, "passive" suspension, an "active" suspension system senses road conditions and makes adjustments to provide a smoother ride, and improves tire wear and fuel efficiency as the vehicle holds better to the contour of the road.

Past attempts to build active suspension systems have not been economically feasible, according to team members. Now, advancing technology will allow the Rose-Hulman students, appropriately named Team Suspense, to produce a productive system.

"I've always wanted to make an active suspension system," says Johnston.

The students believe the biggest challenge will be getting their suspension system's controls to align with the vehicle's other components while remaining within budget.

Teams from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Brown University, and the University of California at Berkeley were other U.S. colleges originally submitting entries for this year's Valeo Innovation Challenge. Rose-Hulman joined Wichita State University in being selected this year.

Valeo, an international auto parts supplier based in France, focuses most of its research and development programs on the design of technologies that reduce motor vehicle carbon emissions and promote intuitive driving.