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Fuel efficiency has been a huge theme at this week’s New York International Auto Show, and in keeping with that trend, Edmunds named the show’s five standout cars. One of the standouts was the newly unveiled 2013 Chevy Malibu!

2013 Chevrolet Malibu

Edmunds admired the size of the Malibu in particular: “Chevy bucks the ‘bigger is better’ trend that has dominated the midsize-sedan segment in recent years by going smaller with the 2013 Malibu,” said writer Warren Clarke in a blog post.

GM will be donating a 2013 Chevy Malibu to all sixteen schools competing in EcoCAR 2. We’re excited to see the teams further reduce the environmental impact of the already fuel efficient Malibu, while maintaining the consumer appeal that made the car such a hit this week in New York!

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At today’s New York International Auto Show, the Chevrolet Volt was selected as 2011’s World Green Car of the year!

The award, presented by Bridgestone, honors a vehicle that was either all-new or substantially revised to be more environmentally responsible for the year 2011. The Volt was selected as a finalist from a group of twelve new cars from across the world, and beat out the BMW 320d and Nissan Leaf for the top prize.

The Chevrolet Volt

Fuel efficiency, emissions, and power plant technology were all crucial elements in evaluating the nominated vehicles, so the awards committee employed three green experts to judge the cars’ technical aspects. The experts unanimously chose the Volt as one of the top-three vehicles in the competition.

Please join us in congratulating Chevrolet on this great achievement!

Today Argonne National Laboratory celebrates the 65th anniversary of its founding. On April 19, 1946, the University of Chicago accepted a letter contract to operate a lab intended to address America’s most important scientific and societal needs.

Today, Argonne continues to lead the world in providing scientific and engineering solutions to the grand challenges of our time: plentiful and safe energy, a healthy environment, economic competitiveness, and a secure nation.

Argonne is a crucial partner for the EcoCAR competition, and EcoCAR in turn is helping Argonne work to meet America’s energy and environmental challenges. Please join us in wishing Argonne National Laboratory a happy birthday!

Photo: Peter Lindberg, Flickr

In the ongoing effort to make America more economically competitive, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced funding for Graduate Automotive Technology Education (GATE) Centers of Excellence. Energy Secretary Steven Chu‘s program sets aside up to $5 million to fund these GATE Centers, which educate students in critical automotive technology.

Graduate-level, interdisciplinary subjects addressed in GATE curriculum include:

  • Advanced Combustion Engines
  • Lightweight Materials
  • Advanced Energy Storage
  • Advanced Hybrid Propulsion and Control Systems

Like EcoCAR, the GATE Centers represent the DOE’s focus on clean vehicles and its interest in meeting ambitious goals, including President Obama’s challenge to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

To learn more, visit the GATE Center webpage!

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is a major supporter of educational competitions like EcoCAR, and most recently hosted the Chicago Regional Middle School Science Bowl.

This fast-paced, Jeopardy-style team competition featured 11 teams from the Chicagoland area competing to answer multiple-choice or short-answer questions relating to science and math facts or concepts.

Daniel Wright Middle School from Lincolnshire won first place and is going to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C. Jerling Junior High from Orland Park won second place while Roosevelt Middle School from River Forest won third place.

In all, 70 coaches and team members attended the event along with 26 Argonne National Laboratory and DOE volunteers.

Congratulations to the winning teams and we wish Daniel Wright Middle School the best of luck in the National Science Bowl!

Regional Winners from Daniel Wright Middle School

Yesterday in a speech at the National Press Club, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu compared the 1957 Sputnik “Space Race” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the current challenges the U.S. is facing as countries like China rapidly innovate in the area of energy technology.

U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Secretary Chu posed a central question that should resonate with EcoCAR teams, sponsors and enthusiasts – Will we maintain America’s innovation leadership or will we fall behind? During the speech, he stated that “America still has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution and secure our future prosperity, but time is running out. Federal support of scientific R&D is critical to our economic competitiveness.”

How does Secretary Chu propose we secure an innovation leadership role for the United States? First, increase the support of energy R&D. Second, formulate sensible, long-range energy policies that have bipartisan support.

Innovations in energy technology, like those that come from competitions like EcoCAR, can generate significant and quantifiable public benefits, which are not presently recognized or rewarded by the free market. For the U.S. to remain competitive in the world of innovation, federal support of scientific R&D is imperative.

Watch Secretary Chu’s speech here.

An innovative new project called the Climate Generation Program is bringing even more hope for a greener future for our youth. The competition will ultimately target high school students in more than 60 countries but initially be piloted in California and Minnesota this year.

Not only does the Climate Generation Program seek to educate our country’s students on climate change, it presents them with the test of connecting their environmental school work to their everyday lives. By aspiring to connect all subjects of a high school education with real-life application, the competition aims to inspire students to make a difference in our earth’s future environment and climate.

“We believe the initiative will propel students to become tomorrow’s leaders on climate change, green technology, and any number of other environmental issues,” said Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency Linda Adams.

The British Council has paired with the California Air Resources Board, an EcoCAR competition sponsor, to make this project possible. “We feel that the climate action projects will complement California’s new Education and the Environment Initiative standards-based curriculum.  We are looking forward to continuing to develop new ‘Climate Champions’ who can represent the youth voice on global climate issues at the local, regional, national and international levels,” West Coast Manager for the British Council, Meghan Steed said.

It’s both interesting and inspiring to see the many ways that organizations and groups of people are becoming educated on the climate issues throughout the world, while progressively fighting for a better, greener future. Good luck to all of the participating students in California and Minnesota!

For more information on the Climate Generation Program, please visit www.coolcalifornia.org/article/champion-the-cause.

In 1987, The U.S. Department of Energy began sponsoring Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTC).  More than 16,000 students from more than 600 institutions in North America have participated in one of  these hands-on learning opportunities.  To date, there have been more than 45 different competitions.   Take a moment to reflect back on some of the competitions over the years and look how far we’ve come!

Let us know which logo you like the best. The polls are now open!

Today, we are sharing Part Two of the interview with Paul Smith from the MathWorks.  In Part One of the interview we learned about Paul’s role in the EcoCAR competition and what set Ohio State apart from the other teams in Year Two. Paul shared some great insights, so check out the rest of the conversation below!

Q: What was your most memorable moment from the Year Two Finals events in San Diego?
A: During the presentation from Mississippi State University when Will Dickerson, the student presenting to our judging panel said “we couldn’t have done this without Stateflow.” The MSU team had a really detailed understanding of some of the more subtle features and applied them to the great benefit of the team. MSU went on to win the overall EcoCAR competition in Year Two.

Q: In what ways have you seen the teams change from Year One to Year Two? How have their skills developed? Any particular teams achieve outstanding/unique growth?
A: What has impressed me the most is how the teams continue to build upon the legacy of modeling, simulation and analysis expertise that they’ve developed at their schools over the years. Models are a fantastic way to capture the design intent and pass that knowledge along to future generations of students they may never even meet. Future generations can quickly look at the models and develop an abstract understanding of what the design is trying to accomplish. This just doesn’t work with hand written code. Furthermore, the use of multi-domain modeling for modeling the physical systems just wasn’t present in the competition until a few years ago. Rose-Hulman has been a pioneer in this area and has shared their ideas with the other teams by running sessions at our workshop in the fall.

Additionally, the incorporation of students from other disciplines (business, economics, marketing) that manage overall projects or develop the teams’ outreach programs. Some of the teams’ outreach programs are rich with various social media exposure, high school and elementary school interactions, tremendous web presences and the list goes on. As any member of a major automotive OEM knows, it’s not just about the math and science. Successfully building and operating in a team environment is essential to getting things done. This has been a great growth area.

Q: As we enter the final year of the challenge, what advice do you have for the students? What challenges lie ahead that they might not be anticipating?
A: Year Two was about getting the vehicle to move. Year Three is all about refinement. It is key to keep using simulation to validate new ideas to refine the controls or hardware or to add on new degrees of control freedom. You can break the vehicle in simulation as often as you want, but you can only break the physical vehicle once!

I would also suggest that the student engineers take full advantage of the offers for support and mentorship from the sponsors. These are industry experienced engineers that have learned from the school of hard knocks. A smart student will learn from their own mistakes, a wise one will learn from others’ mistakes.

Q: What’s next for MathWorks and EcoCAR?
A: We are actively planning the details of the EcoCAR Fall Workshop: September 29 – October 3, 2010 to be held at our campus in Natick, MA. We will offer a three track learning solution to accommodate new comers and old timers alike. We’re also planning some things just for the faculty advisors to help them on their quest to integrate the concepts of Model-Based Design into their classroom and curriculum.

We’ll continue to provide the resources of our mentors to the teams and we are looking forward to supporting the future of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions as those plans come together.

MathWorks is a Platinum Sponsor for the EcoCAR Challenge and has been involved in Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) for many years. For each competition, MathWorks donates software for Model-Based Design and delivers intensive training to all student teams and faculty advisors during the fall workshops. Additionally, the company provides experienced automotive industry engineers as mentors who work closely with students. Part of MathWorks’ mission is to give back to the communities in which the team lives and works, using its engineering and education expertise. In the following interview, Paul Smith, Director of Consulting Services for MathWorks, talks about EcoCAR and how the competition is a convergence of both engineering and education. Paul also congratulates all of the teams for their hard work and dedication to date.

Q: What is your role in EcoCAR? How does EcoCAR compare to other student competitions you’re involved with?
A: My day job is Director of Consulting Services but I also act as MathWorks technical lead engineer for the EcoCAR competition. I help design the support structure MathWorks provides to the competition organizers, faculty advisors and student engineers. I also have the great privilege of participating in the judging of various elements of the annual competitions and MathWorks Modeling Award. While previous student engineering competitions focused primarily on hardware modifications and some add-on control systems based around rapid prototyping platforms, EcoCAR includes a unique focus on modeling and simulation, within engineering education as well physical vehicle development. The early focus on desktop and Hardware-in-the-Loop simulation based testing provides a safe platform to let engineers do what they do best – develop and try out new ideas. The shifting focus to developing the next generation automotive engineer has taken the program to a whole new level. The competition gives the students a really tremendous opportunity to learn how industry works and uses the same, albeit scaled down, development process GM uses. When they graduate, they are finding multiple job offers in the current jobs market. This is a great testament to the tremendous value participation in this program has both for the student and the company that hires them.

Q: What is MathWorks Crossover to Model Based Design and what are the judging criteria?
A: The Crossover to Model-Based Design Award recognizes EcoCAR teams that exhibit the most creative application of MathWorks software products to help achieve the competition’s overall objectives. Those objectives include, from a high level, reduction of the environmental impact of automobiles by improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions, while retaining the vehicle’s performance and consumer appeal. Basically, the student engineers are working on removing the automobile from the debate on environmental impact using industrial grade development process and tools.

The MathWorks award focuses a bit more narrowly on the application of our software as part of the overall competition and points were awarded to team in a number of areas including plant modeling, controls design, validation & verification, tuning, data analysis, visualization, and hardware implementation through automatic code generation. Extra credit is given for uses of MATLAB for analysis of engineering challenges outside the boundary of the vehicle that are part of the overall energy equation.

Q: What set Ohio State University apart from the other 15 teams this year?
A: The Ohio State University made extensive use of our physical modeling tools like SimScape and SimPowerSystems, Simulink, Stateflow, Control Design, and Optimization tools. They performed signal processing to examine high frequency high voltage effects. They used models to determine vehicle fusing and cooling requirements, and used Report Generator to produce summary reports to satisfy competition delvierables. They built a standalone engine controller from the ground up in Simulink (most teams command torque through a CAN interface to a black box to control engines). They have two simulation environments they’ve built called EcoSym and EcoDyn based on Simulink for static and dynamic analysis and design of their powertrain and related controls. Overall, OSU has built upon a rich tradition of Model-Based Design competency instilled by their faculty advisor, Georgio Rizzoni and clearly demonstrated to our judging panel that they were the team that set the standard for application of our tooling solutions.

Interested in Paul’s advice for the students heading into Year Three of the competition? And what is in store for MathWorks and EcoCAR? Check back here tomorrow for Part Two of Paul’s interview with the Inside the Green Garage blog!

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