PLATTEVILLE- The University of Wisconsin-Platteville chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers provides students with the opportunity to participate in engineering design competitions that test their knowledge of engineering and manufacturing principles.
UW-Platteville SAE boasts approximately 70 members and the club assists with annual events within the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science such as the Engineering Expo and the Girl Scouts' Science and Technology Day. The primary focus of UW-Platteville SAE is the annual design competitions. They participate in the Clean Snowmobile, Mini Baja and Formula competitions against teams from around the world. Team members work on their respective projects throughout the school year, designing and building the projects leading up to the competitions and retooling promptly after to prepare for next year's competition.
"If it's not homework, we're working on the snowmobile," said Cindy Kurek, a member of the Clean Snowmobile Team and SAE social coordinator.
The team competed in the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, which was hosted by Michigan Technological University, from March 16-21. According to the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge website, teams must reengineer an existing snowmobile to reduce emissions and noise. The intent of the CSC is to develop a snowmobile that could be used in national parks and other environmentally sensitive areas. The competition stipulates that snowmobiles must be able to travel 100 miles without refueling, reach 45 mph on a smooth trail, and travel 500 feet in under 12 seconds. In 2009, snowmobiles had to be flex-fuel capable, which means that engines must run on a fuel mixture ranging anywhere from 10 to 85 percent ethanol.
In addition to meeting design specifications, teams are required to determine and justify what a reasonable manufacturer's suggested retail price would be for their machine. When arriving at a final MSRP, teams are to assume that at least 5,000 of their sleds would be manufactured and additional costs incurred in mass production of their models must be included. The CSC team made a number of alterations to their base machine, a 2008 Ski Doo Rev-XP, that pushed the final value of the machine to just over $13,000. For the 2009 competition, the team installed a secondary fuel mapping system that overrode the stock mapping system but allowed for all other stock features to continue functioning. Another alteration to the original snowmobile was the installation of a General Motors flex-fuel sensor that determined the alcohol content of the fuel to create more effective combustion. The team also installed an auxiliary catalytic converter that improved emissions from the two-stroke engine.
Kurek asserted that the competition itself offered learning experiences outside of constructing the snowmobile. "At the competition, there's a lot of professional development, such as meeting with sponsors and judges from the industry," explained Kurek. "We have to act in a professional manner."
At the 2009 competition, UWP's snowmobile finished seventh overall out of 14 teams. Highlights from the competition include a successful cold start, in which the snowmobile is cold-soaked overnight and must start within 20 seconds and drive 100 feet without stalling. UWP also had the second-lightest sled at the competition and took second place in the acceleration portion of the contest. In preparation for the 2010 competition, the team is continuing development of the flex-fuel system and working to improve results in the emissions event.
Another option for SAE members at UWP is to join the Formula team, which designs, fabricates and races a Formula-style race car. Teams are to assume their vehicle is for the non-professional, weekend competition racing market.
The Formula competition consists of both static and dynamic events. Evaluations of the car's design, cost feasibility and marketability fall under the static events. Dynamic events test the car's acceleration, cornering ability, endurance and handling.
The UWP Formula team made significant changes for the 2009 competition, including a nod to the growing movement towards environmentally sound practices. "A lot of people might think racing is a waste of fuel, so with that in mind we wanted to go down the environmentally-friendly route as far as the race car and see what kind of doors that could open," explained Flatley.
The 2009 Formula car, like the clean snowmobile, runs on E85 ethanol. Formula teams have the option of using a traditional unleaded fuel, but the team opted for the ethanol option, which required additional modifications. "There were new challenges and new parts," explained Tom Flatley, captain of the UWP Formula team. "Some of the changes included the implementation of higher-compression pistons and a re-designed camshaft."
The 2009 competition was held at the Michigan International Speedway, with this year's competition held from May 13-16. The team finished 73rd out of 120 teams in this year's competition.
A third option for members of SAE is to join the Mini Baja team at UWP. The SAE Mini Baja competition challenges students to design, fabricate and race a miniature Baja-style off-road vehicle. Like the CSC and Formula car challenges, cost, design and reliability figure into judging just as much as the car's performance. Each Mini Baja vehicle is powered by a 10-horsepower Intek Model 20 engine donated by Briggs and Stratton. The common engine among all competitors challenges students to work under an engineering design constraint, similar to what they may encounter in the professional field after graduation.
UWP's Mini Baja team traveled to the MGA Automotive Research facility in Burlington from Thursday, June 11 to Sunday, June 14 for the 2008-2009 competition. Brendan Behrens, president of SAE and captain of the Mini Baja team, said the team made some significant alterations for the competition in June.
"To reduce vehicle weight, we primarily analyzed the chassis design because the majority of the vehicle's weight can be attributed to that area," explained Behrens, who added that classroom knowledge plays a pivotal role in the vehicle's design. "Throughout the design process, we utilize a lot of engineering knowledge that we have learned in class, such as principles in material mechanics and Finite Element Analysis to design a chassis that is both light and effective."
The Mini Baja team finished in 35th place out of 120 teams at the June competition.
The SAE chapter at UW-Platteville also has new facilities in the recently opened Engineering Hall. The new building offers SAE the use of a chassis dynamometer, which is used to measure a vehicle's engine torque and horsepower, a two-post hoist for vehicles, a fully ventilated welding area and a full-size automotive-grade paint booth. Kyle Droessler, vice president of SAE and co-captain of the Mini Baja team, said "The new engineering building's facilities provide the team with new opportunities and make us more competitive against the bigger schools."
In addition to upgraded facilities, UW-Platteville SAE also recently purchased an 18-foot-long enclosed aluminum trailer, thanks to a sponsorship from R&R Trailers.
As president of SAE, Behrens feels that SAE provides him with an extra advantage as an engineering student at UWP. "Whenever I'm in interviews and I mention SAE, they know I have practical experience" he explained. "SAE gives me the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge relative to a real-life engineering project."
Anyone with further questions regarding SAE or its involvement at SAE competitions may contact Behrens at email@example.com or Kunz at (608) 342-1341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.