U-Idaho Clean Snowmobile Team Has Banner Year at International Competition

Monday, March 25 2013

Clean Snowmobile Challenge
MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho’s Clean Snowmobile Challenge Team won a record number of awards – nearly half of those possible – at an international competition earlier this month that challenges engineering students to build quieter, lower-emission snowmobiles.

The 13-member team took third place overall at the 2013 Society of Automotive Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge in Houghton, Mich. They also won 10 of 21 possible awards, earning recognitions for snowmobile design, project display, safety, value and innovation, and winning $1,000 in prize money. The team also was one of only six to complete the competition’s 85-mile endurance run.

The team’s snowmobile met its goals for emissions and achieved a higher fuel mileage than expected, said Karen DenBraven, director of U-Idaho’s National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology, which sponsors the snowmobile team.

“Everything performed as it was designed to perform the whole time,” said DenBraven.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge presents teams with different criteria each year. This year, the engineers had to design a snowmobile that would run on flex fuel, which can be anywhere from 40 to 70 percent ethanol. They also had to create two modes for the sled, so it could switch between running at optimum power and running more cleanly and quietly.

“We looked at the emissions, the power and the fuel conservation and we tried to get a nice, even balance,” explained Drew Hooper, a mechanical engineering graduate student.

The team’s snowmobile uses a two-stroke engine like traditional snowmobiles, but runs about 20 times cleaner than the machines commonly in production 10 years ago.

U-Idaho teams have competed for 13 of the Clean Snowmobile Challenge’s 14 years. The standards set at the challenge over the years have shaped the snowmobile industry, which has begun producing sleds that have a lower impact on the environment and the people who live near snowmobile trails.

“This competition has shown what is possible,” said DenBraven. “They can no longer say it can’t be done.”

The competition also offers students valuable experience not only in design and project management, but also in writing about and presenting their work.

Dillon Savage, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, said being part of the team has allowed him to learn from mentors and given him a step up in applying for internships.

Hooper, who has been on the team for five years, said the project has introduced him to all facets of the motorsports industry, which he plans to enter after graduation, as well as helped him develop flexibility, goal-setting and engineering skills.

“It’s not a two-week project. It’s a five-year project,” said Hooper. “It’s a very big career-opportunity maker for a student.”
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The University of Idaho inspires students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Through the university’s $225 million Inspiring Futures capital campaign, private giving will enhance student learning, faculty research and innovation, and a spirit of enterprise. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.