The Northern Illinois University Supermileage Team finished third in the world at the SAE Supermileage Competition at the Eaton Corporation Proving Grounds in Marshall, Mich., just missing out on a second place finish and the top spot in the United States.
“Last year at Shell, we scored a team personal record, but then went to SAE and had a let down,” says outgoing NIU Supermileage Team President Lindsey Dodis. “This year, we kind of flip-flopped. We did really poorly at Shell but redeemed ourselves at SAE. We beat our previous year’s SAE score as well.”
NIU’s vehicle recorded a 1,057 miles per gallon rating, and the team’s score of 1,400 was good for second in the nation. NIU Supermileage earned a $900 award for its effort.
“The students are so impressive with their ingenuity and creativity. What they accomplish year after year with this competition is truly amazing,” says Staci Kroon, president of Eaton Vehicle Group, which hosts the event. “The Supermileage competition helps these students develop practical engineering, team building and leadership skills they can use to succeed in their careers, including making tomorrow’s cars and trucks more fuel efficient.”
“SAE is all about racing; it’s about professionalism; it’s about engineering,” Dodis adds. “They have a whole design portion of the competition, and we have to submit design reports and get judged on those.”
Competitors are also judged on their verbal presentation and technical inspection, which is added to the mileage score.
Dodis says, “They care about the things that matter. It’s very technical. They weigh the fuel instead of using the volumetric efficiency. Overall, it might be a smaller competition, but it’s all collegiate; it’s all professional.”
Hosted by Eaton since its inception in 1980, the Supermileage event is designed to generate public awareness of high-mileage fuel economy and to promote automotive engineering as a career choice for students. Participants are encouraged to use advanced materials and technologies, as well as their design creativity and imaginations, to get the most out of their vehicles over the 9.6-mile course – six times around Eaton’s 1.6-mile test track.
Looking back on her career at NIU and with the NIU Supermileage Team, Dodis has no regrets.
“I’m happy I did it, for sure,” she says.