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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

During EcoCAR’s Spring Workshop, TV quiz show Jeopardy! featured an entire category dedicated to Argonne National Laboratory.

The March 10 episode highlighted Argonne as a DOE site that is “helping to find new green ways to power America,” and challenged contestants on such subjects as battery innovation, solar power, and nuclear research.

Check out the video below to see the entire category play out!

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

Not so long ago, Justin Kern was helping West Virginia University rebuild their FutureCar during the FutureCar Challenge. Since then, Justin has gone on to become an organizer and now sponsor of advanced vehicle technology competitions (AVTCs).

After graduating from West Virginia University, Justin was hired by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) to work on hybrid electric vehicle powertrains. In particular, he was able to perform chassis dyno testing of hybrid vehicles and supported the installation of the 4WD chassis dyno at ANL. During his time at ANL, he also acted as a technical coordinator for AVTCs and helped with the FutureTruck competition.

“College student competitions provided me with hands-on experience with advanced technology concepts that I would normally not have had a chance to experience,” he said.

Today, Justin works at Bosch, a sponsor of the EcoCAR competition. As a senior calibration engineer, he has become an expert in Motronic engine control software for gasoline direct injection engines.

“I work in the engine management systems group as a calibrator.  Our job is to take the engine control system and adjust parameters to ensure all the customer and legislated requirements are met.  I spend time in prototype vehicles working to get them functioning, and running tests to evaluate their performance in areas like drivability, emissions, cold starts and many other metrics.  And as a certified Motronic trainer, I teach classes for our customers.”

“From FutureCar to today’s EcoCAR Challenge, the changes in the student competitions parallel the industry advancements,” Justin said. “As a sponsor of the competition, it is nice to be able to provide this learning experience to future engineers, knowing how much I valued and gained from it.”

Following President Barack Obama’s vow to prioritize energy innovation and infrastructure in yesterday’s State of the Union address, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu held an online town hall meeting during which he further explained the administration’s stance on clean energy.

“Today we are once again seeing the benefits for the American people that come with federal investments in science and innovation,” Secretary Chu said. “With this new agreement, battery technologies developed at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are making their way into the market. By supporting American innovation, commercialization and manufacturing, this partnership is helping to boost U.S. competitiveness and create the jobs of the future.”

Secretary Chu added that continuing business as usual will have a devastating effect on the entire world and echoed President Obama’s emphasis on clean energy efforts. With the President proposing to spend more than $8 billion on the field, Chu said that the nation’s overall prosperity depends on the clean energy race.  So, what does this mean for you and for EcoCAR?

For one thing, it means more jobs. One of the administration’s goals is to have 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015 and these vehicles aren’t going to design, engineer and manufacture themselves! To turn this ambitious goal into a reality, the auto industry will be looking to the next generation of engineers, especially those with AVTC experience like EcoCAR alumni! Just imagine – within a matter of years, team members currently competing in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge could be steering the auto industry into an era of not only clean energy vehicles, but ones that are highly functional with broad consumer appeal.

More information about Secretary Chu’s statements can be found here or you can view the replay video embedded below.

Today’s town hall was the first in the year-long “Energy Matters” series in which DOE experts will address issues raised by the public. You can ask energy-related questions via email, Facebook and Twitter and have them answered live online. Stay tuned for the next one!

The Green Garage is excited to report that Argonne National Laboratory has signed a licensing agreement with General Motors for the automaker to test its patented composite cathode material that could improve lithium-ion battery life and energy storage density! The material could allow batteries to hold their charge longer, have a longer total life and charge at higher voltages. GM’s interest in the material could help to improve the efficiency of its next-generation of electric vehicles.

The New York Times recently interviewed GM spokesperson, Rob Peterson, who explained that a few years ago GM “started down the path of trying to understand batteries as well as [it] possibly could.” He went on to say that understanding new developments in battery technology will determine “who becomes the leader in electric vehicles.”  GM has the largest battery test lab facility in the industry and views battery leadership as a core competency of the company.

Being the first American car company to license use of Argonne’s technology puts GM in a very good position to potentially improve the performance of future electric models.

We are thrilled that Argonne and GM have a strong EcoCAR presence because both companies, like all those involved in the competition, are on the cutting edge of advanced vehicle technologies!

Argonne battery researcher perfecting the novel material

At the end of the spring semester and after the Year Two Finals, two EcoCAR students – Patrick Walsh, co-team leader for Virginia Tech, and Dana Bubonovich, former Outreach Coordinator for Penn State – ventured to Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) to start their summer internships.

Patrick was hired as a Research Aide at Argonne’s Transportation Technology Research & Development Center (TTRDC). Throughout the summer, he worked on testing activities at the Advanced Powertrain Research Facility (APRF).

Patrick working on dyno testing in the lab at Argonne

“The group I am working with is responsible for testing and benchmarking advanced technology vehicles and powertrains,” he said. “The specific project I am working on involves comparing a third generation vehicle drive train to that of a second generation.”

Patrick uses a dynamometer to do a majority of his benchmark testing. The dynamometer has road load capabilities, environmental simulation capability and a comprehensive emissions bench among other features. When fully instrumented, vehicles can be analyzed by researchers in order to determine factors like drive cycle fuel economy and energy use, hybrid operating strategy, thermal effects of drive cycles or environmental conditions and powertrain efficiency. Patrick says the ultimate goal of the research is to determine where the vehicle’s comprehensive update achieved differences in efficiency.

So how will this internship help with his work as co-team leader for the Virginia Tech team?

“At Argonne, the researchers can study almost anything they want, as long as it is justified and funded. I’ll apply much of what I have learned at Argonne to refining the HEVT competition vehicle in Year Three of EcoCAR as well as my future career, which will definitely involve automobiles.”

Dana at a Clean Cities Propane Workshop with former Chicago Bears coach, Mike Ditka

While Patrick was busy working on benchmark testing, Dana Bubonovich spent her time on advanced vehicle technology competitions and EcoCAR. She coordinated the Clean Cities University Internship Program and helped with a broad range of tasks for EcoCAR, including writing posts for this blog. Her primary role was to create professional development opportunities for the Clean Cities interns, maintain communication between the Coalitions and ensure the interns understood the importance of the Clean Cities program. “I’ve been able to utilize my experience with public relations, event planning and social media to create webinars for the interns to learn from,” said Dana. “Most of the interns are in the environmental science field so they really benefited from these webinars.”

She also had the opportunity to sit in on a variety of planning meetings for Year Three of EcoCAR. “It was a unique experience being an organizer rather than a student. When it comes to planning everything from rules to deliverables, it’s a totally different point of view when you’re an organizer.”

What’s next for Patrick and Dana? Patrick returns to Virginia Tech, resuming his role as co-team leader for the VT EcoCAR team. Despite the end of her ANL internship, Dana will continue working for Argonne and join the rest of the AVTC team as a Communications and Logistics Coordinator for EcoCAR. Her work will continue to focus on the Clean Cities program, as well as outreach, logistics and other public relations tasks for the EcoCAR program.

This week’s “Where Are They Now” post features Stephen Gurski, a safety engineer in the Powertrain Division at General Motors (GM). At GM, Stephen is working on the launch of the Chevrolet Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle. In addition to his full-time job, Stephen is serving as the GM Powertrain Lead for Year Three of the current Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) series, EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge.

Stephen received a tribute for his years of AVTC service

Accepting the award

Stephen’s interest in engineering started in 1997 when his roommate invited him to attend a student club meeting. The club was the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team of Virginia Tech and their task was to convert the 1997 Chevrolet Lumina into a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle for the FutureCar Challenge. Stephen enjoyed working on cars and agreed to help the team obtain a set of axles for the vehicle, a small but important task. Little did he know that this decision would save his academic hardships and redefine his professional career.

For the next five years, Stephen dedicated his time to building advanced vehicles for the Virginia Tech team. Eventually, Stephen was selected as team lead during his last two years with the team. During those five years at Virginia Tech, Stephen finished his bachelor’s degree and continued on to complete a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduate school, Stephen landed a job as a technical coordinator and safety engineer for the AVTC program at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. Stephen served as both a member and lead technical coordinator for the Argonne team for the finale of FutureTruck and majority of the Challenge X program. In 2007, he transitioned jobs internally at Argonne, becoming a vehicle dynamometer test cell and emissions engineer, which allowed him to evaluate the state of advanced vehicle technology in passenger and medium duty vehicles. Furthermore, Stephen contributed in researching the new EPA window sticker fuel economy labeling standards needed for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Stephen concluded his employment at Argonne in the summer of 2008, where he transitioned into his current position at GM.

“Had I not chosen to participate in AVTCs as a student, I would not have finished either of my engineering degrees,” he said. “As a result, I’ve helped hundreds of students become world class automotive engineers, and now I’m redefining the future of personal transportation.”

This summer, more than 25 interns are spreading awareness of alternatives fuels and clean energy throughout the nation. Clean Cities, an EcoCAR Gold Sponsor, launched the Clean Cities Summer Internship program to assist local coalitions in the planning and implementation of events, research of alternative fuel usage, database analysis, and social media and media relations tasks.

Marcy Rood Werpy, Principal Transportation Environmental Analyst at Argonne National Laboratory and a former manager of Clean Cities, believes coalitions need new and creative ways to reach fleet managers and general consumers about these important issues.

“With the nation focused on a clean energy revolution, Clean Cities is at a pinnacle with significant opportunities to accelerate the market towards electric drive technologies, biofuels, natural gas and propane vehicles,” she said. “Local coalitions need resources or people power to get projects started, find additional fleet customers, and educate consumers about new vehicle technologies. Interns provide smart, energetic resources to coalitions needing to move ahead quickly.”

Clean Cities looked to Argonne National Laboratory to help oversee and execute the summer internship program. Dana Bubonovich, former Outreach Coordinator for Penn State, was brought on board to help oversee internship responsibilities for all 25 coalitions and act as a liaison between Argonne, the interns, and the coalition coordinators.

“Argonne is here to help the coalitions succeed in spreading awareness of clean energy,” said Bubonovich. “The interns are very bright and have already helped the coalitions tremendously. The coalitions are really impressed with what the interns can achieve.”

Another EcoCAR student is interning at the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition (GLICCC) this summer.

EcoCAR team leader for the Embry-Riddle EcoEagles, Vincent Sabatini, accepted an internship with the GLICCC to assist in their mission of expanding the use of alternatives fuels, improving air quality, facilitating energy independence, and encouraging economic growth. The GLICC was officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy in October 1996, and is currently managing and funding CNG fleets and fueling stations through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Vince Sabatini talks to students about alternative fuels and clean energy

Vincent played a significant role in Embry-Riddle’s outreach activities throughout the last two years of EcoCAR. He was often the team’s spokesperson at offsite events and helped give tours of the lab for visitors. His dedication to his EcoCAR team and outreach activities impressed the coalition’s coordinator and landed him the internship with the GLICCC.

Vincent is currently working on updating the contact information for coalition stakeholders, public officials, media contacts, and fleet managers, as well as updating the coalition’s website. He is also developing a press packet for events such as station groundbreakings or grand openings, as well as the annual Advancing The Choice (ATC) Conference, which will be held on October 22, 2010.

“I really enjoy working with Clean Cities,” said Vincent. “It’s nice because I can take the outreach skills I learned at Embry-Riddle, mix it with my engineering background, and apply it to my internship. The internship really taught me to expand my horizons and I’ve become more well-rounded because of it.”

While the EcoCAR teams were in Yuma for the Year Two Finals, MotorWeek was on hand filming in the pits during the safety and technical inspections and interviewing representatives from the Department of Energy, General Motors and Argonne National Laboratory to get a real feel for what the competition is all about.

The finished piece aired last week and came out great. Check it out below!

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