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As a university student, interacting with someone already in your chosen field is a rewarding experience, and last week, some EcoCAR students did just that.

Five EcoCAR teams spent the week at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Research & Innovation Conference in Atlanta – the division of the NSF that has been a long-time sponsor of the DOE Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions, such as EcoCAR.

Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Penn State, and Missouri Science & Technology were at the conference to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge they have obtained through their experiences in EcoCAR and to display vehicles and educational exhibits to the 1,300 attendees in fields ranging from academia to industry and government. Two of the teams, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, also showcased their EcoCARs at the conference.

Georgia Tech EcoCAR team members talking to guests at the NSF Conference

Georgia Tech EcoCAR team members talking to guests at the NSF Conference

“The NSF supports EcoCAR because it gives young engineers an opportunity to get some hands-on, real-world  experience in moving a vehicle from a stock vehicle to something far more advanced,” said Dr. Donald Senich, senior advisor of the Innovation and Industrial Partnership at NSF.

“The opportunity at the universities for a diverse group of students to build teams is extremely important in their education. NSF supports the program because it gives students such a unique and practical experience. ”

The NSF conference’s theme this year was Engineering for Sustainability and Prosperity,” and emphasized the role civil, mechanical, industrial, and manufacturing engineers play in addressing the world’s growing challenges of using energy and natural resources in a sustainable manner.

Teams utilized the opportunity to reach out to leaders in innovation and sustainability to talk about how they are addressing those same issues through the EcoCAR competition.

“Our team spent a lot of time over the winter break working on the vehicle so that it would be ready to show at this conference,” said Rachel Dobroth, outreach coordinator for Virginia Tech.  “It’s so rewarding to be able to show the vehicle to engineers and researchers in this field.”

The team leader of the Missouri S&T team, Kevin Martin, believed the NSF conference provided his team with a great opportunity to expand its outreach beyond our campus and Midwest.

“To get the opportunity to see what’s going on in the industry related to sustainability effects and see how vehicles can tie into that is great,” said Martin.

After a successful week at the NSF conference, the five teams feel proud of their accomplishments thus far, and about their experiences interacting and networking with industry leaders.

“I just enjoyed the interaction with the young people, with the individuals from General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy,” Dr. Senich said. “I think they’ve put together outstanding teams from the organizers’ side and the student side. And I feel like a member of the team.”

EcoCAR Team members at the NSF Conference

EcoCAR Team members at the NSF Conference

This week’s Team Spotlight Video highlights the Missouri S&T EcoCAR team!

Check out the video below to hear from team members about the invaluable contributions EcoCAR is making to the university and how they have personally benefited from participating in the competition.

Students are not only applying their studies to their work with EcoCAR, team members are bringing a wealth of knowledge obtained through the EcoCAR experience back into the classroom. Add $5 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and excellent educators and what’s the result? A remarkable academic program that would make virtually any university green with envy. You can read more about Missouri S&T’s innovative coursework in the GG blog post – Courses Charge Up Future Electric Vehicle Plug-In Engineers.

On October 15, Missouri S&T students and faculty celebrated National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day, also known as Odyssey Day, at their EcoCAR garage. Alongside elected officials, enterprise and local businesses, the school spent the day promoting cleaner transportation technology.

In addition to the on-campus event and presentations, the S&T EcoCAR team members commingled with like-minded businesses in St. Louis, Missouri for the third-annual “Show Me Sustainability Conference,” where they spoke about their thoughts and experiences related to sustainability projects and initiatives throughout

The video below captures the highlights of these activities, so don’t miss it!

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –> On October 15, National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day, also known as Odyssey Day, Missouri S&T students and faculty gathered at the EcoCAR garage to advocate for cleaner transportation technology alongside elected officials, enterprise and local businesses. Following the on-campus event and presentations, the S&T EcoCAR team members comingled with like-minded businesses in St. Louis, Missouri for the third-annual “Show Me Sustainability Conference,” where they spoke about their thoughts and experiences related to sustainability projects and initiatives throughout Missouri.


Dr. Mehdi Ferdowsi (left) and Andrew Meintz are leading the effort to prepare Missouri S&T's engineering students to design the electric and hybrid cars of the future. Photo: B.A. Rupert/Missouri S&T Communications.


When Dr. Mehdi Ferdowsi and Ph.D. student Andrew Meintz offered the inaugural class on electric and hybrid vehicles last January at Missouri University of Science and Technology, they made an instant connection with students from a variety of engineering disciplines.

Seventeen students enrolled in the course, even though it was hastily put together and not widely advertised.

“They obviously see this as a new field that is going to grow and ultimately become a new career path,” says Ferdowsi, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T.

That’s one of the hopes of Ferdowsi, Meintz and the federal government. Fueled by $5 million in stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Missouri S&T is developing a new undergraduate minor in advanced automotive technology to better prepare students for the plug-in economy.

Last semester’s introductory course, taught by Meintz, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, was S&T’s entry into the world of plug-in electric vehicles. Meintz makes a great instructor because he can draw upon his own experience with EcoCAR as S&T’s Electrical Team leader. “I used skills learned through the EcoCAR Challenge to tie course material with industry practice.  Not only did the course present material from a classroom lecture point of view but also used hands-on Model Based Design techniques to allow students to model hybrid electric vehicles.”

The introductory course was what Ferdowsi calls “a gateway class” designed “to familiarize students with the concepts of plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.” Students from electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering and engineering management enrolled in the course to learn about the different fuel, powertrain and energy storage systems of electric and hybrid vehicles.

This semester, S&T has ramped up the course offerings for plug-in and hybrid automotive technology. The curriculum, which is funded through stimulus dollars, includes half a dozen undergraduate and graduate courses designed by Ferdowsi, an expert in power electronics.

The ambitious initiative of converting the auto industry from gasoline to electricity requires far-reaching efforts. Thus, S&T is also integrating coursework into existing classes and developing graduate certificate programs to help practicing engineers move into the emerging field of plug-in technology. Ferdowsi and his colleagues at S&T are also working with two other Missouri schools – the University of Central Missouri and Linn State Technical College – to provide additional work force training. In addition, Missouri S&T is helping the St. Louis Science Center educate the public about the importance of electric vehicles.

“Developing new course material is hard, especially when you’re talking about a new car that hasn’t even been developed yet,” says Ferdowsi. But creating a new course of study will ultimately have a significant impact on the nation’s economy. “We will have a pipeline of students prepared for this industry.”

Now that the Year Two Finals are over, the Missouri S&T EcoCAR team is spending the summer making improvements to its vehicle. The team is focused on repackaging the Electrical Storage System, relocating the HVAC system to the rear of the vehicle, calibration of hydrogen detectors and finishing the installation of new fire suppression system in the EcoCAR garage.

The S&T Outreach team has also been busy! In May, the team attended the St. Louis Regional Clean Cities event in St. Louis, Missouri. During the EV Workshop, they learned about the development of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. In early June, the EcoCAR team also participated in the Rolla Summerfest in Downtown Rolla. At the event, the team got an opportunity to showcase their advanced vehicle technology research and spread awareness about the competition.

This week, the team is running an exciting EcoCAR Summer Camp! The pre-college camp will give high school students an idea of what it’s like to work with hydrogen FC-PHEV. The highlights of the week will be working on Unigraphics NX, conducting fuel cell vehicle simulations, performing total fuel cycle well-to-wheel modeling and a visit to the EcoCAR garage.

The S&T team is excited for what is in store in Year Three of the competition! The next big event for the team is Homecoming 2010 on October 1 in the EcoCAR garage. The day is being organized by Angela Rolufs, director of the Missouri Transportation Institute and MS&T can’t wait to participate!

Clockwise from L to R: S&T at the Year Two Finals, Rolla Summerfest, EcoCAR Summer Camp 2010 and St. Louis Regional Clean Cities workshop

Many EcoCAR students live every day like it’s Earth Day, but on April 22, several teams held special events in recognition of Earth Day 2010. Read about the celebrations below for ideas on how to make Earth Day 2011 an even better event on your own campus.

Every year, Georgia Tech hosts an Earth Day event for more than 3,000 people and 70 exhibitors. This year, the theme was “Celebrate Our World” and featured eco-friendly giveaways, recycling opportunities, a clothing swap, office supply exchange, live music, and organic popcorn. The Georgia Tech EcoCAR team was on site and shared the team’s efforts to create a greener Earth.

Georgia Tech's EcoCAR display at the Earth Day event

Penn State’s Advanced Vehicle Technologies (AVT) team celebrated Earth Day by joining forces with other organizations on campus to hand out eco-friendly freebies and participate in green trivia. The highlight of the day was a water bottle exchange – each student that recycled a plastic water bottle received a free reusable bottle. The response was overwhelming and the Penn State team donated the plastic bottles to an organization that was building an eco-house out of bottles on campus.

Penn State students participating in the water bottle exchange

Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Team (HEVT) participated in Earth Week on campus, promoting alternative clean transportation like riding the bus, walking or biking to class. Students who don’t drive to campus received a free t-shirt and were entered into a raffle for a free bike.

The team’s extended-range electric EcoCAR was on display on campus, alongside an all electric vehicle, a hybrid and a biodiesel bus. Towards the end of the event HEVT even got to show off their vehicle running in all electric mode!

Virginia Tech's EcoCAR on display during Earth Week

The Missouri S&T EcoCAR team talked to more than 1,000 local students about the importance of renewable energy, clean energy, and energy conservation on Earth Day. The theme of the school’s annual celebration was, “Be Green! Keep the Planet Clean.”

Take a look at the Missouri S&T Earth Day festivities in the video below!

We’d love to hear how YOU celebrated Earth Day this year!

In early March, the Missouri S&T EcoCAR team exhibited at the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Work Truck Show. The NTEA show is hosted for the work truck industry in a different city each year. This year, the MS&T EcoCAR team attended the show in St Louis, MO.

Missouri S&T EcoCAR was one of approximately 5,000 booths at NTEA, ranging from large companies like General Motors to specialty parts businesses. Energy efficiency was a strong focus at the show, and the MS&T team met with several groups that advocate for renewable energy including, Clean Cities. During the show, attendees stopped by the MS&T booth to learn about EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge. Small hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were displayed at the booth and used to explain how hydrogen will power Missouri S&T’s EcoCAR. As people stopped by the Missouri S&T booth, they were asked to take part in an Alternative Energy Vehicle survey.  Click here to see the survey results.

MS&T students talking to NTEA Work Truck Show attendees about energy efficiency

The event was a large success as Missouri S&T was able to spread the word about the EcoCAR program.  Many attendees were interested to hear about the EcoCAR’s advanced vehicle technology and how it will benefit society. 

Attendees interested in learning more about the EcoCAR competition

The Missouri S&T EcoCAR team discussed its commitment to educating people about green energy and the importance of conservation and efficiency during Legislative Day at Missouri’s State Capitol earlier this month. The event included research groups from the University of Missouri’s four campuses: Mizzou, UM-Kansas City, UM-Saint Louis, and Missouri S&T. 

MS&T electrical engineering student, David Lecko, talking to attendees about the EcoCAR program

During the day, the team spoke with legislators, members of the community, student lobbyists, the student leadership of Missouri 4-H, and engineering students and alumni from universities throughout Missouri.  It was a successful event for the MS&T team because many attendees expressed an interest in sustainable and clean energy.

MS&T team member, Sundeep Bande, posing with Mizzou alumni at Legislative Day

At the end of February, the Missouri S&T EcoCAR team gathered in its garage to remove everything gasoline-related from its GM-donated vehicle. The process started early in the morning with hydrogen, electrical, and mechanical safety training. The team then split into two groups. One group prepared the engine for removal and the other detached the fuel lines and gas tank. Once the components were disconnected, the car was lifted away from its gas engine. 

A close-up of the engine drop!

As the students stripped the car of its power-train and fuel source, their EcoCAR came one step closer to the power of lithium-ion batteries and a hydrogen fuel cell. The Missouri S&T team has spent the last year and a half designing its EcoCAR. They now look forward to the design becoming a reality. For more updates, check out the team’s Web site and Twitter stream.

The video below walks through the process of removing the gasoline – very cool! 

It is hard to believe that it snowed in Daytona Beach this weekend, but the Winter Workshop was a great success nonetheless.

Below, the teams shared a few highlights with the Inside the Green Garage blog:

Not only did the University of Waterloo Alternative Fuels Team (UWAFT) win first place for best technical poster, their most memorable moment came at the Daytona 500 Experience.  One of UWAFT’s outreach coordinators, Eric Mallia, managed to successfully operate the air wrench to execute a full-speed NASCAR pit-stop in 16 seconds!  

UWAFT's Eric Mallia at the NASCAR pit-stop

The Missouri S&T team was thrilled to be able to watch the Le Mans Racing Series time trails from the infield stands of the Daytona 500 race track. The team was excited to see and hear the race cars as they drove around the track and they were close enough to see the red light on the tachometer as the drivers were shifting!

The Ohio State team took home third place in the technical poster competition, ending their week on a high note!  The poster represented the vehicle architecture and simulations that were used to develop the team’s Hardware in the Loop (HIL) designs. Ohio State enjoyed taking a break from working on their car to spend time with the other teams and remember the work they’re doing to advance green technology.

The Texas Tech team on their way home from Daytona!

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