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Two of the major focuses of the EcoCAR Challenge have been Model-Based Design and Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) simulation. These techniques allow teams to test everything from failures to fuel economy using a virtual vehicle model. They also help to ensure that a robust, reliable and safe control system makes its way into the car.

Throughout the past semester, several members of the University of Victoria EcoCAR Controls Team worked diligently to improve their HIL system, taking advantage of EcoCAR sponsor dSPACE’s advanced Automotive Simulation Models. The team’s upgraded model accurately represents the real vehicle from the ignition and body roll, right down to the frictional forces between the tires and the road. This work has already paid dividends, allowing the team to accurately test their real-time optimization strategy before making any updates to the vehicle. The new model and preliminary on-road testing also confirmed that UVic’s EcoCAR will be capable of 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) in about 7.5 seconds, as predicted back in Year One!

Check out the video below to see the UVic team’s model running a 0-100 km/h test on dSPACE MotionDesk Software. Don’t let the default car body in the video fool you, ‘under the hood’ is UVic’s model and just like the real car, it is fast!

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!

080814_3RF1440-568pxAs Year 2 of EcoCAR heats up and teams turn their focus from virtual design to physical integration, teams will undoubtedly look toward software tools provided by The MathWorks as a Platinum sponsor.

The MathWorks will host 2 days of hands-on training at our Natick, MA campus during the upcoming EcoCAR Fall Workshop. EcoCAR teams can tailor their instruction to best suit their designs’ needs by selecting from 3 tracks of courses offered during the workshop.

So whether a novice or power user, teams will leave the workshop solidly grounded in MathWorks software tools, such as MATLAB, Simulink and a range of other tools for Model-Based Design and control strategy development that will be central to the team’s activities in the year ahead.
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EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge today announced that three of the competition’s Platinum Sponsors, dSPACE, National Instruments and The MathWorks, are providing more than $2,300,000 of cutting edge hardware and software tools to help student teams design the green cars of the future. EcoCAR teams learn real-world automotive engineering practices through the use of Model-Based Design and graphical system design technologies that include hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) and software-in-the-loop (SIL), which help to bring the students’ vehicle visions from concept to the road. Students will unveil their final designs at the competition finals in Toronto on Friday, June 12, 2009.

Read the full social media release here.

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