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Six Complete Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run
For more information on this story contact:
Email:Marcia Goodrich
Phone:906/487-2343


March 16, 2005--Six sleds completed a 100-mile endurance run Tuesday, March 15, marking the official start of the 2005 SAE Clean">Clean Snowmobile">Snowmobile Challenge at Michigan Technological University.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison, which won last year's Challenge with its unique gas-electric hybrid engine, completed the trek without a hitch. "It went great," said driver Dan Bocci. "The snowmobile performed just like we designed it to."

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 then reengineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance.

Minnesota State University at Mankato, one of two sleds in the Challenge powered by 85 percent ethanol, finished the trail ride over Brockway Mountain and down to Copper Harbor. The team celebrated as the driver steered into the parking lot of the Mariner restaurant running on fumes. Alcohol fuel, though extra-clean burning, doesn't provide the mileage of the more conventional mix used by most snowmobiles at the Challenge, which contains only 15 percent ethanol.

The University of Maine, with its one-of-a-kind hood designed by student Kate Charles, also completed the run. The hood is a refinement of last year's model, which drew attention with its unconventional shape. Made in part of fiberglass and acoustical foam, the hood is super-light and helps buffer engine noise. "And we wanted it to be more esthetic than last year," Charles said.

Other teams finishing the endurance run were the State University of New York at Buffalo, Kettering University and Clarkson University.

"We had perfect conditions," said event organizer Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center. "About half the sleds made it. We had lots of overheating problems, which is typical."

Overheating knocked out most of the other sleds, including Michigan Tech's, during the first part of the endurance run, a 50-mile ride around a driving track at the Keweenaw Research Center. They will have a chance to fix their sleds and make up the miles today (Wednesday).

McGill University's electric snowmobile did not compete in the endurance run, but impressed bystanders with it's near-silent, exhaust-free ride. "All you hear is track noise," said driver Olivier Proulx.

"The quiet is nice, but for me, the best part is the smell," team member Simon Ouellette said. "When you're driving, you can smell the pines in the woods."

Range is a problem, however. The McGill sled can only travel seven or eight miles.

Next year, there may be a separate category for emissions-free sleds. That would be fine with Nathan Hansen, a student from Utah State University, who is visiting the Challenge without the electric snowmobile he built in his garage. He hopes USU will throw its helmet in the Clean Snowmobile Challenge ring next year, preferably with an all-electric design. Though it's slightly heavier, the sled handles and rides like a typical snowmobile, he said. "And mine is so quiet it needs a horn," he says.

The competition continues through the week and winds up Saturday, March 19, with acceleration and handling events on the Keweenaw Research Center test track, near the Houghton County Memorial Airport.

The public is invited to come by and watch the sleds in action Saturday. The acceleration event starts at 10 a.m., with the handling event beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at noon. Visitors are advised to wear boots and, of course, warm clothing.

The public can also get a look at the snowmobiles and talk with student engineers later on Saturday at Michigan Tech. The entries will be on display outside the Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics Building from 2 to 4 p.m.

The 13 teams participating in the Challenge are Clarkson University in New York, Ecole de Technologie Superieure in Montreal, Kettering University in Flint, McGill University in Montreal, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State University at Mankato, Montana Tech, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of Alberta, the University of Idaho, the University of Maine, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

The SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge is sponsored by the Keweenaw Research Center and Michigan Tech's Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. For more information, visit http://www.mtu.edu/snowmobile.

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