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Idaho, McGill Take the Golds in Clean Snowmobile Challenge
For more information on this story contact:
Email:Marcia Goodrich

MARCH 26, 2007—The University of Idaho is back on top in the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

Michigan Tech placed sixth overall, ranking second in the design paper competition and third in rider comfort.

The Idaho team's combination of a two-stroke Ski-Doo engine and custom chassis earned them multiple honors in the Challenge's internal combustion division: the Gage Products Award for Best Fuel Economy, the Polaris Industries Award for Best Handling, the Society of Automotive Engineers Award for Best Design, the Land and Sea Inc. Award for Best Performance, the Emitec Award for Best Value and the Denso Corporation Award for Best Ride. In addition, they received the Founders' Award for Most Sportsmanlike Conduct.

Idaho was number one in the Challenge in 2002 and 2003 but struggled during the following three years. Team leader Nick Harker said their 2007 showing was built on lessons learned. "We wanted to develop the technology we've been working on," he said, including a direct injection system and a custom cylinder head. "We also paid attention to noise," a special concern for two-stroke engines. In particular, the team designed the hood to allow cooling air to circulate while keeping engine noise at a minimum.

More than anything, he credited his fellow teammates. "We've been building a strong team, and we paid attention to detail," he said.

The Idaho sled ran on E10, a 10 percent ethanol-gasoline blend. Next year, Challenge participants in the internal combustion division will be required to use E85 (85 percent ethanol) or biodiesel.

McGill University's (Montreal, Canada) electric snowmobile took the National Science Foundation Veco Polar Resource Award for Best Overall in the Challenge's zero-emissions category. It also received the Society of Automotive Engineers Award for Best Design in its class and the Caterpillar Corporation Innovation Award.

At 499 pounds, McGill entered the lightest sled in the competition, and team leader Simon Ouellette says he is looking forward to taking it to Greenland for further testing, a prize provided by the National Science Foundation. Like Idaho, McGill learned from its mistakes, Ouellette said.

"We did an electric sled last year, and everything wasn't going great, but it had potential, and we fixed the small things," he said. They also applied what they learned to a hybrid snowmobile entered this year in the internal combustion division. "Now that we have what we want in the electric, we plan to work on the hybrid," Ouellette said.

The University of Maine and Kettering University, in Flint, tied for second place. Maine also received the PCB Group Award for the Quietest Snowmobile, the River Valley State Bank Award for the Most Economical Solution and the BlueRibbon Coalition Award for the Most Practical Solution.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison finished fourth, and the University of Minnesota at Duluth placed fifth.

The University of Wisconsin at Platteville received the International Engineering and Manufacturing (Woody's) Award for Best Acceleration.

The State University of New York at Buffalo won the Lotus Engineering and Horiba Instruments Award for Lowest Emissions with their biodiesel-powered sled.

Jay Meldrum, lead organizer of the Challenge, said this year's participants had made an exceptional effort. "Most would have made the 'best available technology' standards for Yellowstone National Park, which are higher than the EPA's," he said. "And to have a diesel win best emissions is amazing."

Leon LaVigne, the recreation program manager for the USDA Forest Service Eastern Region, reminded the student engineers that their work has implications beyond the Challenge, particularly as open space disappears. "In the Eastern Region, public lands are becoming islands of green in a sea of people," he said. "It's important that we have clean, quiet snowmobiles, and that we take care of what we have." Both through their engineering and through responsible riding, they can help assure that snowmobiling has a healthy future, he said.

Held March 19-24 at Michigan Tech, the Clean Snowmobile Challenge is the Society of Automotive Engineers' newest collegiate design competition. Teams of engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and reengineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance. The Challenge is hosted at Michigan Tech by the Keweenaw Research Center and the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

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