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Each month, the OSU EcoCAR Outreach Team features a sponsor interview on YouTube. At the National Science Foundation Conference in January, team members Abbey Underwood and Sarah Jadwin asked Donald Senich, senior advisor for the National Science Foundation, some questions for the Sponsor Series.

Check out the video below to see Don speak about the National Science Foundation’s sponsorship of EcoCAR and the future of hybrid vehicles. The NSF has been involved in the EcoCAR Challenge and related events for more than 15 years, and has used the competition as a window to new ideas and opportunities.

In addition to Don, the Outreach Team has been able to interview several other executives this year, including: Sam Spofforth, executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio, Kent Helfrich, General Motors’ executive director for electronic controls & software and executive lead for the EcoCAR competition, and Jeff Hemphill, vice president of product development for Luk, USA. To see more of these videos, visit the OSU EcoCAR YouTube page!

After months of research, brainstorming and voting, the OSU EcoCAR team has decided on a final billboard design. The team started by working with Professor Patricia West, at the Fisher College of Business to incorporate EcoCAR into her Integrated Marketing and Communications (IMC) class during the autumn quarter. Students in Professor West’s classroom were instructed to create an IMC campaign to fulfill a requirement in the course, and lucky for Ohio State EcoCAR, she allowed students in the course to focus on EcoCAR.

Throughout the ten-week quarter, two groups of eight students each performed market research on hybrid vehicles and then used the findings to create effective Integrated Marketing and Communications campaigns for the Ohio State EcoCAR team. A major component of the campaigns was to design a consumer-oriented billboard.

During the final week of class, the two groups presented their EcoCAR consumer campaigns to the entire class as well as OSU EcoCAR Faculty Advisor, Dr. Shawn Midlam-Mohler, Green Marketing Professor, Dr. Curtis Haugtvedt, and Year Two OSU EcoCAR Outreach Coordinator, Justin Ford.

The students then found out the best billboard design would come to life on an actual billboard that would be visible from U.S. Route 33 in Columbus, Ohio!

After much discussion, the OSU EcoCAR team chose three billboard designs created by marketing student, Rimar Vilansenor.  These designs were then put on the OSU EcoCAR website, where site visitors could cast a vote for their favorite. Check out the winning design below!

The OSU EcoCAR team would like to thank Professor West, Rimar Vilansenor and the rest of the Integrated Marketing and Communications class for their enthusiastic participation. This project was a great way for students to get involved in real-world marketing applications while learning more about alternative fuel vehicles and EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge. And let’s not forget the thrill of designing a billboard that could potentially greet travelers on Route 33, this kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often!

Remember to look for the OSU EcoCAR billboard just south of Columbus on U.S. Route 33 beginning February 2!

In the early weeks of December, the Ohio State EcoCAR team interviewed a team sponsor as part of its “OSU EcoCAR Sponsor Series.” Sam Spofforth, Executive Director of Clean Fuels Ohio, a Clean Cities Coalition, spoke with outreach team members about the organization. Spofforth spoke about his role in Clean Fuels Ohio, efforts the coalition is making to educate and raise awareness about alternative fuel vehicles, what the coalition hopes to gain from the EcoCAR Challenge and the future of alternative fuel vehicles.

Check out the video below to see the interview with Clean Fuels Ohio’s Executive Director, Sam Spofforth!

The Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition (AVTC) program was started by Argonne National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy in 1987 and has included more than nine unique series over the last 22 years. Most recent AVTC series include EcoCAR, Challenge X and FutureTruck. Our latest “Where Are They Now” post features Shawn Midlam-Mohler, an AVTC alum who has contributed as a team member, team leader, and now faculty advisor for each of these recent AVTC series spanning the past 12 years.

Shawn started his M.S. at The Ohio State University in 1999 where he quickly got involved as a team member on the Ohio State FutureTruck team working on the Chevrolet Suburban, sponsored by GM. As a team member, Shawn worked on the emissions control system of the vehicle.  Shawn quickly discovered the significance of these competitions and signed up to be team leader for the Ford FutureTruck. During his time as a student, Shawn always felt that the time spent working on FutureTruck was one of the most valuable parts of his education.  Therefore, fostering this type of learning with new students was a natural fit for Shawn.

From 2004-2005, Shawn was focused mostly on completing his PhD, but still managed to support the Challenge X team at OSU. After completing his PhD in 2005, Shawn began working as a Research Engineer at The Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research where he currently is employed today. This position allows Shawn to perform research for some of the best in the automotive industry. He has had the opportunity to work with General Motors, Chrysler, Tenneco, Cummins, and many others through SMART @CAR and the CAR Industrial Consortium. Shawn’s research includes emissions control, powertrain modeling and applied engine control.

Currently, Shawn serves as the Co-Faculty Advisor for The Ohio State EcoCAR team. His experience in AVTCs allows Shawn to keep the OSU EcoCAR team motivated and on track.

Shawn works with Ohio State EcoCAR students on testing their vehicle

Shawn jokes, “During my time as a student in the advanced vehicle competitions, it would be an understatement to say that we are more successful now than we were in the past. Our earlier trials and tribulations make the present look a lot rosier when something goes wrong.  As serious as a current setback seems, I can usually think of something worse that we’ve already experienced and learned from.”

Shawn believes AVTCs give students opportunities to engage in the applied side of engineering.  Shawn stated, “Application of engineering principles is what industry thrives on and participation in motorsports projects like EcoCAR are great ways for students to get that experience.”

In addition to his role as the EcoCAR faculty advisor, Shawn is gradually becoming more involved in teaching and supporting the research areas within The Ohio State University‘s mission.  Shawn is working with interdisciplinary capstone senior design and is striving to integrate motorsports’ projects into Ohio State’s curriculum. He is taking on more responsibilities with the entire spectrum of automotive student project teams at Ohio State.  The OSU EcoCAR team is fortunate to have such strong leadership from Shawn and looks forward to his continued support of advanced vehicle technology competitions for years to come!

Are you an AVTC alum? Share your “Where Are They Now” story with us at

In late 2010, the Ohio State University EcoCAR team entered the Woodward “How-to Video” competition. The team’s video explains how OSU has applied two Woodward MotoHawk controllers to the design of their plug-in EREV vehicle in the EcoCAR competition. Woodward tools allow for rapid development of vehicle systems with improved performance and efficiency. The OSU team uses a Woodward 128-pin MotoHawk ECM to develop engine controls that convert a compressed natural gas (CNG) engine to run on E85 ethanol with a high compression ratio for improved efficiency. A second Woodward controller, a 48-pin MotoHawk ECM, manages startup, cooling, and driver interface functions throughout the vehicle.

The OSU team is extremely proud of their video (featured below) and hopes Woodward can use it for educational purposes in the future. OSU would also like to wish all the teams that participated in the competition the best of luck!

One of the Ohio State EcoCAR subteam leaders, Tony Morgan, maintains a blog on general design concepts and highlights how it applies to the team’s EcoCAR vehicle. In the EcoCAR competition, Tony’s work focuses on the center console of the vehicle which has undergone some major design changes due to two battery modules being located beneath the gearshift lever. The EcoCAR’s new design gives the Ohio State team the opportunity to replace the original center console look and feel. Lots of possibilities!

The new console design for Ohio State’s EcoCAR

To read more about design concepts, check out Tony’s blog at:!

With so many different clubs and organizations at Ohio State, freshman MJ Yatsko felt overwhelmed when she first got to campus.

MJ Yatsko, one of the newest members of OSU's EcoCAR team

Yatsko joined the school’s EcoCAR team and quickly learned that even if you have no experience with autos and are unsure about what aspect of the vehicle you want to work on, the EcoCAR experience provides you with an opportunity to try different projects to see what you like best with guidance from more experienced team members.

MJ is technically on the mechanical team, but is currently working on two projects with the engine team. The first project is redesigning a component to better fit into the vehicle and the second project is controls based. Working on the engine team has given her the chance to understand how engines work and working with controls for the engine is allowing her to understand how the engine and the vehicle are controlled.

“Being a member of the Ohio State EcoCAR team is all about a hands-on learning experience,” MJ said. “Even as a freshman, I can get involved in all the projects we have going on and learn things that I won’t get to learn in my freshman engineering classes.”

On November 13, the Penn State EcoCAR team traveled six hours from State College, PA to Columbus, OH to take part in a tailgate with the Ohio State EcoCAR team. This is the fifth consecutive year that the two teams have come together to tailgate; they have taken turns hosting the event and traveling back and forth between the schools in accordance to the where the annual game is scheduled.

The Ohio State and Penn State teams at the tailgate

There was no shortage of team spirit and EcoCAR pride at the tailgate! The Ohio State team was especially excited to show off their vehicle’s new eco-friendly paint job. Penn State was fired up to chat with fans from both teams who were eager to hear about the competition and each team’s progress.

The morning after the game, OSU’s Outreach Coordinator, Abbey Underwood, gave the Penn State team a tour of the OSU garage and lab facilities. “It was interesting to witness the great work the Ohio State team was doing in its garage,” said Penn State’s team leader Mike Zahradnik. “We really enjoyed visiting with the Ohio State team and admiring the excellent resources they have access to.”

Team members and enthusiastic fans checking out the OSU EcoCAR and its new eco-friendly paint job

Although the schools are rivals on the football field, the Ohio State and Penn State EcoCAR teams have risen above the rivalry to actually become partners. “In the spirit of EcoCAR, we have joined forces to show visitors how college students are impacting the future of the automotive industry,” said Penn State’s Outreach Coordinator Allison Lilly.

The OSU vs. PSU EcoCAR tailgate tradition showcases the importance of advanced vehicle technology competitions and how they are training quality engineers that are building automotive technologies of the future.

So who won the game? Ohio State, 38-14… but these fierce competitors are counting down to the final showdown. Who will win the EcoCAR Challenge? In a matter of months, we’ll find out!

Engineering students at The Ohio State University are not the only ones gaining real-life experience through the EcoCAR Challenge. As alternative fuel vehicles evolve, marketers face the challenge of getting consumers to accept the new technologies. Marketing professors at the Fisher College of Business are preparing their students for this challenge by working with the OSU EcoCAR team.

Dr. Curtis Haugtvedt, marketing professor and expert in consumer psychology, is currently using competition outreach objectives in his Green Marketing class. Students are tasked to design a marketing plan for the OSU EcoCAR team. Dr. Patricia West, also a marketing professor and expert in consumer judgment and decision making at the university, is having students in her Integrated Marketing and Communications class develop an integrated marketing and communications plan, focusing on a consumer campaign for the team. Projects from both classes will be utilized by the EcoCAR team to fulfill competition outreach objectives. Team members have their fingers crossed that these student-generated plans will give them a competitive edge during the third and final year of EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge.

Last month, the Ohio State EcoCAR team had the opportunity to rub elbows with automotive industry execs at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research external advisory board meeting. General Motors, Honda and Ford were just a few of the major players in attendance. At the event, OSU team leader, Eric Schacht, gave a presentation to the board about the team’s progress in Year Three of the competition. During lunch, the outreach team had the chance to interview representatives from EcoCAR’s headline sponsor, General Motors.

The OSU team also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from its team sponsor, LuK USA, which donated a dual clutch transmission for their EcoCAR. In the video below, you can watch Jeff Hemphill, vice president of product development and regional director of technical product development at LuK, describe the benefits of the EcoCAR Challenge.

Jeff Hemphill, LuK USA

They also found time to talk to OSU alum Kent Helfrich, the executive director of electronic controls and software at General Motors and the executive lead of the EcoCAR Challenge, about his role in the competition and the how he thinks EcoCAR Challenge could impact the automotive industry.

Kent Helfrich, GM

Before the external advisory board went back into meetings, Kent Helfrich from GM generously offered to take board members for a ride in the new Chevy Volt. OSU Outreach Coordinator, Abbey Underwood was lucky enough to join executives from GM and Ford for a ride. Abbey discussed the challenges involved in marketing and communicating advanced technology vehicles with the executives and got to hear their expertise on the vehicles.

Check back soon to see more Sponsor Series videos from OSU!

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May 2020