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It was sweet victory last night for two EcoCAR teams. But we’re not talking green vehicles. Texas Tech and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) students won first place at F1 Racing Boston, a speed-filled team outing to mark the halfway point of the Fall Workshop.


Gavin Clark, Team Leader for UOIT takes his F1 Racing trophy


One thing was evident at the end of the night: don’t mess with Texas Tech. Team member Kevin Kappes won first place on Track One at F1 Racing. With a best lap time of 16.33 seconds, Kevin beat out seven other students during the final race, including two outreach coordinators. Wisconsin’s outreach coordinator Andrea Sotirin put up some tough competition though, leading throughout most of the race and finishing third overall.

Gavin Clark of UOIT raced to the top on Track Two with a best lap time of 20.67 seconds and average speed of 40.7mph. He faced some tough competitors and finished only 1.9 seconds ahead of the second place winner. But perhaps the sweetest victory was from General Motors sponsor Ed Argalas who won first place during the sponsor/organizer race. Ed beat out more than 35 sponsors to get the fastest time in the sponsor finals of 20.8 seconds.

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!

This week’s Mentor Monday post features Kerry Grand, an engineer working in the consulting services group at MathWorks‘ Michigan office. 

Before joining MathWorks and getting involved with EcoCAR, Kerry held various engineering positions at Ford and General Motors. During that time he focused on and gained extensive knowledge of hybrids and electric vehicles – experiences he brings to his EcoCAR teams. 

Kerry joined MathWorks in 2006, and soon after, was drawn to the student competitions. He was intrigued by EcoCAR’s green mission and the chance to help students become engineers. During his undergraduate studies, Kerry participated in an SAE electric vehicle challenge supporting his senior project; this competition was successful because of strong support from both advisors and sponsors. 

As an EcoCAR mentor, he is impressed by the professional growth of the students throughout the three years. Students are using industry standard processes to design their vehicles and he sees firsthand how much the teams develop their skills during the competition. “Questions they ask today are very different than the questions they asked in Year One. The students are really into learning about modeling with MathWorks’ Simulink technology. They now understand Simulink and are diving deeper into the complexities of their designs to focus on optimized control, rapid prototyping, and deployment.”

Kerry Grand with fellow MathWorks mentor, Pete Maloney, at the Year Two EcoCAR Fall Workshop hosted at MathWorks' headquarters in Natick, MA

We are pleased to announce four new award opportunities made possible by EcoCAR Platinum Sponsors dSPACE, National Instruments, MathWorks and Freescale Semiconductor! The awards are designed to showcase exceptional ways the EcoCAR teams use the sponsors’ technologies, and as a result, successfully advance in the competition. Here’s an overview of the new awards:

  • dSPACE Embedded Success Award. The award will be granted to the teams that have effectively utilized dSPACE Hardware-in-the-Loop technology for controls/diagnostics development and validation in preparation for the Year Two vehicle testing. 
  • National Instruments Most Innovative Use of Graphical System Design Award. The award will be given to the team that demonstrates the most innovative use of National Instruments tools during the vehicle development cycle.
  • MathWorks Modeling Award. The award will be granted to the top three teams that best apply the core concepts of Model-Based Design with  the MathWorks tools to help achieve the overall competition objectives.
  • Freescale Semiconductor Innovation Award. The award will be granted to the team with the most innovative use of controls and electronics to give its EcoCAR a competitive advantage.  

The teams must notify the competition organizers by April 30, 2010 if they wish to participate. Only a couple weeks left to showcase how your EcoCAR team stands out from the pack! Check back for the winner’s listing in May.

This week’s Mentor Monday post features Chris Fillyaw, an application engineer specializing in control design and automation, at The MathWorks’ office in Michigan. Chris’ work with the EcoCAR student teams stems from a personal hobby and passion: drag racing! 

Chris Fillyaw talking shop with an EcoCAR student

“In both EcoCAR and drag racing, the winners are determined by what the sponsors and judges see at competition.  The real work, however – the learning, the team bonding and the commitment to achieve your best – comes behind the scenes in the design and preparation stages,” said Chris.

In both activities you are given a set of rules and you must be creative and think outside of the box to get ahead in competition.  How you tackle the race course is up to you.

“Continued analysis and refinement of designs can go a long way.  If you don’t meet your goals on the first try you might think the design is inadequate. You shouldn’t give up and go in a completely different direction, but rather re-evaluate your game plan: ‘What didn’t work the way you thought?  Why? What can be improved,?’ said Chris.

Of course, lessons learned on the race course have come in handy for Chris during the EcoCAR competition – it was a great way for him to prepare for the F1 racing event during the MathWorks training workshop!

The Winning OSU Team

The Winning OSU Team

We are excited to be writing a blog as the EcoCAR Year 1 Champs! Here is a little information about our team and a reflection of what has contributed to our success this year.

How did OSU get involved in EcoCAR?

OSU has been a participant in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) competitions such as FutureCAR, FutureTruck and ChallengeX since 1992. Most recently, our biodiesel, parallel-through-the-road hybrid electric vehicle placed 3rd in the final year of Challenge X, along with multiple awards including the MathWorks: Crossover to Model-Based Design Award. In addition, the OSU team placed a significant emphasis on marketing and outreach efforts in Challenge X, paving the way for further sophistication of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions through the increased Business and Outreach focuses in the EcoCAR Challenge Competition.
Read the rest of this entry »

From time to time, Inside the Green Garage blog will spotlight EcoCAR sponsors with “video blogs” that provide more personal looks at the people and companies behind EcoCAR and the Green Garage. Hopefully these videos blogs will spark more discussion about the technologies in use throughout the competition and lead to more questions about the team designs.

For our first few video blogs, we arranged to speak with sponsors attending SAE Congress 2009 in Detroit. Our first conversation is with Paul Smith and Shaun Kalinowski of The Mathworks. They shed light on the importance of “model-based design” and explain the concepts of hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) and software-in-the-loop (SIL). Pay particular attention to the Paul’s answer about “making math cool again.”

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