UW-Madison News: UW-Madison engineering students win Clean Snowmobile Challenge

CONTACT: Glenn Bower, [email protected], 608-576-3979

MADISON – With a highly efficient, powerful, clean-running sled, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering students took first place in the highly competitive internal combustion division of the 2015 SAE International Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

The Society of Automotive Engineers competition, held at the Michigan Tech University Keweenaw Research Center March 2 through 7, challenges students to redesign the powertrain of a conventional snowmobile to make it exceptionally clean and quiet while maintaining performance and controlling costs.

The teams and their modified snowmobiles compete in a variety of events, including a 100-mile endurance ride, laboratory emissions, in-service emissions, fuel economy, acceleration, handling, noise, cold-start, technical paper and a design presentation. The student teams come from all over the northern U.S. and Canada, with a team from Finland also competing this year.

The UW-Madison Clean Snowmobile Team started with a 2013 Ski-Doo snowmobile equipped with a 600 cc four-stroke engine. During the last two years, the team added a turbocharger, exhaust catalyst, custom camshafts and a novel air intake chamber.

The team used an extensive computer model of the engine to verify all of its engine modifications before manufacturing new components. Team advisor Glenn Bower, faculty associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, says that while the computer modeling of engines is common in industry, it’s impressive for a team of 15 undergraduates to harness this technology so effectively. “It wasn’t an easy task, and the students did very sophisticated work with computer simulation and modeling to optimize their designs,” Bower says.

The team’s new engine and snowmobile were 10 percent more fuel efficient, 15 percent more powerful, 75 percent cleaner and 50 percent less noisy than the original. The team’s snowmobile achieved fuel economy of more than 23 mpg on the 100-mile endurance ride and also produced the lowest emission during laboratory emissions tests.

This was the UW-Madison team’s sixth win in the internal combustion division in the 15-year history of the competition. The team also won the Best of the Best, Best Laboratory Emissions, Best Design Award and Most Sportsmanlike Conduct awards.

Team leader Jennifer Bartaszewicz, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, says the extensive hands-on learning opportunities she’s taken advantage of through the Clean Snowmobile Team augment her engineering coursework and will give her an edge in the job market.

“Many of the things that I’ve been doing during my four years on the team are also things that I’ll be doing with my future employers,” says Bartaszewicz, a native of Eagle River, Wisconsin. “The team has given me more hands-on experience with things like computer-aided design programs and engine simulations, as well as a deeper understanding of how to design and build something from the ground up, and these skills will definitely carry over to my career.”

Bower says the Clean Snowmobile Team also gives students a strong understanding of what working on a design project in industry is like. He says the students also learn communication and project management skills that are essential for a project of this size to succeed. Planning several weeks in advance is key for keeping the project on track, as the students must factor in enough time to order the right components, install them and run tests. “It gives them a good sense of the pace and experience of working on a real project in industry,” he says.