Supermileage team proves nation’s best – again

NIU’s Supermileage vehicleFor the second consecutive year, NIU’s delegates to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Supermileage competition in Marshall, Mich., won first place of the United States teams and third place overall.

NIU’s team raced against 23 other squads from around the world during the June event.

The College of Engineering & Engineering Technology sends the Supermileage team to compete in this challenge to test the group’s design capabilities.

The Supermileage competition provides an excellent opportunity for students to step out of the classroom and into real world situations, a concept central to the goals of the college.  These students participate in research and design experiments that build upon their skills learned in the classroom.

Team members included captain, Marina Efanov, Steve Clarizio, Joey Cross, Mike Muyszynski, Clay Phillips and Ted Schneller.

NIU’s Supermileage team

Supermileage competitions specifically entail designing, building and competing with a single-person, fuel- efficient vehicle powered by a small four-cycled engine. The vehicles run a specified course; the highest mil- per-gallon rating, in addition to design segment points, wins the event.

With a budget of $7,100, the team of engineering and engineering technology students competed in two national and international events during the 2010 -2011 school year.

In Houston, at the Shell EcoMarathon race, the team had limited success, but gained key insight into the changes that would be necessary in order to defend their title in Michigan.

“By the time we went to Michigan, our vehicle was pretty well dialed in,” said Phillips, a 2011 graduate of the College of Engineering & Engineering Technology. “We were able to pass tech inspection the first day and start runs first thing the next morning. Our best run for the day was our last, which averaged 1,169 miles per gallon. We were the best in the United States for the second year in a row, and also earned third place internationally, also for the second year in a row.”

Like most projects that student groups and organizations in the College of Engineering & Engineering Technology tackle, the Supermileage project was more than just a technical engineering-based project.

“Many of the lessons we learned had to do with project management and resource planning. We had to work with outside companies and individual sponsors in order to get things done on time and within our budget,” Phillips said.

Corporate and individual sponsorship is key to a team’s success.

The Supermileage team worked with Shell, Eaton, DS Solidworks, Schwalbe, Composite Envisions, Green Drive Expo, Pyrotect, BTM Industries, GF AgieCharmilles and Micro Armor in addition to using CEET and university dollars. All funds are raised by the student team.

David Schroeder

David Schroeder

David Schroeder, the group’s adviser, was particularly satisfied with the team’s efforts.

“We are very proud of our students. They really work hard and obviously their hard work shows,” Schroeder said. “Most of the work they invest in is extracurricular and they have really taken advantage of a great experiential learning opportunity.”

After only two years of experience in these events, the team is focused on breaking the 2,000 mpg barrier in 2012: ”We are keeping last year’s chassis and body shape, but focusing more of the work on an advanced motor to get more efficiency out of the vehicle,” said Cross, next year’s team captain.

With that firm plan of action to accomplish this task already in place, team members know they can rely on CEET’s support.

“SAE Supermilage provides its members with a great experiential learning opportunity, as well as the ability to network and sharpen their soft skills such as team work, leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills, all of which are extremely important when looking for jobs,” said Associate Dean Omar Ghrayeb, who works closely with all student organizations in the college. “We are excited to see our students engaged and successful at the national and international level.”

by Amanda Carrier

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