Clean snowmobile team

Engineering Clean Snowmobiles

Engineering Students Fine-Tune Clean Snowmobiles 
Impacting Industry Through Clean Technology
Students on the University of Idaho’s Clean Snowmobile team know how to fine-tune the knowledge they gain in a classroom to make a cleaner and quieter snowmobile. In fact, the team just earned third place in the 10th SAE International Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

Each year students vie to be members of an elite team of engineering students that re-engineers an existing snowmobile to reduce emissions and noise, and then take the snowmobile to the Clean Snowmobile Challenge. Since organizing in 2000, the University of Idaho's Clean Snowmobile team garnered three first place prizes in 2002, 2003 and 2007. Over the past nine years, the team has run out of space in the display cases for their awards.

“The Clean Snowmobile Challenge team is a great opportunity for engineering students,” said Nick Harker, a mechanical engineering graduate student and team mentor. “It allows students to apply concepts, knowledge and problem-solving skills that are taught in the classroom. It also is a great way for students to network with industry professionals, often leading to internships and careers.”

The modifications that students make to snowmobiles on campus today are finding their way onto the showroom floor for tomorrow’s snowmobiles. The Clean Snowmobile team’s research and designs help set noise and emission standards for recreational vehicles in national parks and on public lands.

“The team consists of students of all levels, from freshmen through graduate students. They get firsthand experience in using technology to solve a problem,” said faculty adviser Karen Den Braven, a mechanical engineering professor. “The teams are not just required to make a clean and quiet snowmobile, they must maintain performance. That is what makes this competition a real challenge.”

Once the team has designed, built and tested a snowmobile, it is time to see how it measures up against those of other colleges and universities. The modified snowmobiles compete in a variety of events including emissions, noise, fuel economy/endurance, acceleration, handling, static display, cold start and design.

“It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are great,” said Den Braven. “Being at the competition with teams from the U.S. and Canada is exciting. Students talk with the other teams and have the opportunity to meet potential employers from industry.”

The University of Idaho Clean Snowmobile Team is part of a strong tradition of hands-on learning opportunities in the College of Engineering.