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We have a breaking story on the Green Garage blog today as EcoCAR has announced the winner of the “Best Website” outreach award! UVic took home first place for the contest, which judged team websites based on content, creativity, and appeal. UVic will receive a $500 prize for winning, narrowly edging out second place finisher Ohio State and third place University of Waterloo.

The UVic website features a simple, intuitive layout with up-to-date news and blog posts. The site is visually appealing, with plenty of photos of the team’s vehicle and student team members. Sponsor logos and links to social networking tools are also prominently displayed, completing the EcoCAR judges’ criteria for the award.

Please join us in congratulating UVic and wishing them the best of luck during the last few months of the competition!

Dale Klein, OSU's GM Mentor

During the weeks before Dale Klein, GM mentor for Ohio State University, came to visit the EcoCAR team, all members worked hard to home in on final competition targets by improving software in the engine as well as the overall vehicle.  During this tuning the team greatly improved the car’s engine startup and throttle response, which offered noticeable improvements to its unique highway mode and charge-sustaining operation.  In addition, the team spent a great deal of time refining electric motor control with better motor mapping. These modifications gave the team a chance to improve the vehicle’s supervisory control, meshing all the components together in one seamless vehicle system.

The vehicle had a more-than-functional engine start and electric motor mapping that could strain the half-shafts, so it was an ideal time for Dale’s visit.  But when Dale arrived, he unfortunately couldn’t hop right in and take the smooth riding beast for a spin. Instead he found the team looking at what used to be the electric motor inverter’s capacitors.  As Dale and the team examined the capacitors, a smell known to electrical engineers as “magic smoke” began to fill the air, signaling a malfunctioning circuit. To deal with this setback, Dale helped the team lay out a plan to completely replace the now gutted electric motor inverter with a more efficient model, and pair it with a new motor.

As the team looked up replacement parts, Dale had the opportunity to really take a look at the vehicle. He searched for concerns that technical inspectors would find at the pre-inspection, which might include things as small as a zip-tie or as important as high voltage fusing and routing. Dale pointed out any issues to the team and discussed the planning required to resolve them.

Following Dale’s visit, the team had a very clear list of details to touch up and Dale left excited about the various projects the team was working on. The OSU team appreciates the advice from Dale and General Motors and carried the support through to the Spring Workshop!

It has been a busy week at the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory (NVFEL) in Ann Arbor, MI as five teams were able to complete several dyno testing sessions on both the 2WD dyno and 4WD dyno.

The Ohio State team was excited to use the 4WD chassis dyno at EPA because they only have 2WD dyno capabilities at their university.

“With the 4WD dyno, some of the major focuses of our testing have been tuning our electrically heated catalyst control and some engine transient testing on the EPA drive cycles,” said Ohio State controls team lead John Kruckenberg.

The Ohio State team was able to analyze their catalyst control in hopes of improving their emissions of cold starts and getting a better baseline for how their vehicle performs on the road.

The Ohio State team using the 4WD chassis dyno

“In the second four-hour drive cycle, we were able to complete the official EPA certification dyno test so we could compare our previous test cycles to that of our electric drive mode to see how the vehicle runs on a standard cycle.”

Other teams, like Mississippi State, decided to test their urea-injection system that reduces NOx emissions in diesel fuel. This type of testing helps determine the optimal amount of urea to inject into the system for emissions purposes.

Mississippi State team members testing their EcoCAR

“You must inject sufficient amounts of urea to reduce the NOx emissions to a suitable level; however, if an excessive amount of urea is injected, this will cause ammonia to accumulate in the catalyst potentially resulting in harm to the system,” said Mississippi State Faculty Advisor Marshall Molen.

The Mississippi State team conducting additional tests

The University of Waterloo was also able to complete several dyno sessions this week at EPA. Their fuel cell plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (FC-PHEV) is just one of two in this competition.

“We ran a combination of urban and highway cycles just to get a baseline for vehicle performance and to be able to data log our powertrain,” said University of Waterloo team leader Michael Giannikouris.

“We also had the opportunity to get to do custom acceleration tests that allowed us to tune certain controls parameters on the dyno.”As the Group A dyno testing came to a close, both students and advisors agreed that this workshop was really beneficial.
 
“It has been great to work with EPA personnel and equipment,” said Will Dickerson, team member for Mississippi State. “We are able to get a better understanding of the kind of testing procedures that are relevant to today’s emissions testing.”

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

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.

At the EcoCAR Year Two awards ceremony in San Diego, three teams were presented with the dSPACE Embedded Success Award for demonstrating the most effective use of dSPACE HIL equipment. The first-place winner of the dSPACE Embedded Success Award was The Ohio State University. 
 
“The Ohio State team exemplified the best attributes sought in how to use HIL simulation effectively, from clear specification-based test development to highly mature and in-depth plant modeling,” said Santhosh Jogi, dSPACE Inc. Engineering Director. 
 
OSU had to create their own engine controls for their chosen vehicle architecture.  This required the use of accurate plant models for the internal combustion engine and the integration of the engine controller and the primary supervisory controller with the HIL system. 
 
“Not only did they accomplish these tasks, but also conducted a thorough analysis of fidelity versus efficiency in determining their modeling approach,” Jogi added.  “For test development, they followed a methodical approach to define, create and automate testing, and in doing so, developed the ability to regression-test new versions of control strategies effectively and quickly.”

EcoCAR students receiving the dSPACE award

Second and third place honors were presented to Mississippi State University and the University of Victoria.
 
“Mississippi State had a thorough approach to HIL-based development and testing, one that mimics what is seen in the industry today,” said Jogi.  “They successfully used HIL technology to simulate their system, test major control strategies, failure conditions, and even debug and solve issues in the vehicle.”
 
Jogi said the University of Victoria demonstrated a clear and impressive strategy in using HIL simulation to develop their control systems and test their planned vehicle features and architecture. 
 
“Their plant modeling, test development, and validation of control system function, diagnostics, and integration in Year Two, along with their plans for further simulation fidelity in Year Three, are strong indicators of the forward-looking attitude of this team, which exemplifies the spirit of EcoCAR,” Jogi said.
 
The winning teams received cash prizes and Floating Network License packs of dSPACE’s ASM Engine, Vehicle Dynamics, Traffic, and Electric Component simulation models.
 
“The software packages are designed to allow schools to create automotive technology curriculum in the areas of advanced powertrain, chassis and driver assistance using the same tools that OEMs and Tier1s around the world use for developing new products,” said Vivek Moudgal, dSPACE Inc, Sales Director. 
 
Using tools that are preferred by OEMs will help the universities produce engineers ready to work in the automotive industry.
 
We look forward to seeing what the teams have in store for Year Three!

Since she was a young girl, Beth Bezaire has had a fascination with science and the way things work. She attended summer camps lead by female engineers, took additional courses at a math, science, and technology center during high school, and focused her undergraduate work on mechanical engineering. She has held internships in Powertrain Development at Chrysler and General Motors, mentored a female high school student interested in engineering, and has worked on nearly every aspect of Ohio State’s EcoCAR.

While working with the Ohio State team, Beth has demonstrated leadership, technical expertise, and diversity. It only seems fitting that at the EcoCAR Year Two Finals she was awarded the Women in the Winner’s Circle Women in Engineering Award, presented by Lyn St. James, a former Indy 500 racer, on behalf of the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

“The award, which is sponsored by the Foundation that Lyn St. James established, recognizes the benefits of diversity in the automotive industry,” said Cindy Svestka, Executive Technical Assistant in Powertrain / Vehicle Integration at General Motors. “By recognizing several of the outstanding women who participate in the EcoCAR competition each year, we have the opportunity to show the importance of having women participate in the design, development, testing, and execution of automotive programs.”

Beth Bezaire receiving the Women in the Winning Circle Foundation Award at the EcoCAR Year Two Finals

In the past year, Beth showcased the importance of vehicle development for the Ohio State team. As a co-team leader, she was a member of the Engine team, focusing on exhaust aftertreatment, emissions control, and integration of the fuel system. She also assisted in battery and mechanical integration, where she worked on fabrication of the fiberglass cover for the rear electric machine (REM) and procuring cooling plates and the heat exchanger for the team’s energy storage system.

“Her desire to continually learn about the technology being applied to her team’s vehicle is exceptional,” said Svestka. “When she doesn’t know something, she finds out where to go to learn about it and then takes it on until she not only understands it but can also teach it to others.”

Beth’s technical experience and teamwork is impressive, but it’s her dedication to women in the field that is truly inspiring.

“It’s important to promote women in engineering for two main reasons,” said Beth. “First, we need to encourage the women that are pursuing engineering and foster fellowship among us so we develop support and camaraderie. Second, we need to promote science and engineering to younger students, both female and male, to give them an understanding of what engineering is and why it’s fun so they will consider it as a future career. This is what the Women in Engineering Award is about.”

With one year left on the Ohio State team, Beth plans to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by EcoCAR and wants an impact on the future of female engineering.

“I think great engineers are people that take initiative. They are inquisitive, keep asking questions, and never stop learning,” said Beth. “That is what I hope to achieve.”

Contributed by Dana Bubonovich, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition Intern at Argonne National Laboratory

Last week was a big week for the Ohio State University EcoCAR team. The team unveiled its new website—feel free to share your feedback—and took its EcoCAR out for a drive fueled by a newly installed battery pack.

The OSU engineering team has been hard at work getting the car ready to drive. One of the major accomplishments was getting the battery pack installed, which sits in the trunk of the car. OSU’s EcoCAR fuels the rear powertrain off the battery pack, so getting it completely situated was a big event.

OSU's EcoCAR team pushes the car out of the garage for its first drive fueled by the battery pack

The process of driving the EcoCAR started with hoisting it off the ground to make sure that everything would work correctly when it was outside of the garage. After success in the air, it was time for the team to roll the car out of the garage and into the afternoon sunshine.

The team fired up the engine and drove the car in both forward and reverse around the garage.

So far so good! Check out the post on OSU’s EcoCAR website to watch a video of the car in action.

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!

Last month, the OSU EcoCAR team attended the 2009 SAE Powertrains, Fuels and Lubes meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

At the event, six EcoCAR students gave a presentation called, “Tomorrow’s Vehicles by Tomorrow’s Engineers: Design, Simulation, and HIL Results from Year 1 of the EcoCAR Challenge.” The students discussed the lessons they learned in Year 1 of the competition, including the rapid development of hybrid architectures and the implementation of hardware-in-the-loop simulation.

Brad Cooley and John Kruckenberg represented Ohio State at the meeting and students from Embry-Riddle, Georgia Tech and the University of Waterloo also participated. 

The OSU team was thrilled to be given the opportunity to attend the meeting and interact with industry experts. For more information about the students’ presentation and the other sessions at the SAE Powertrains, Fuels and Lubes meeting, click here!

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