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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is a major supporter of educational competitions like EcoCAR, and most recently hosted the Chicago Regional Middle School Science Bowl.

This fast-paced, Jeopardy-style team competition featured 11 teams from the Chicagoland area competing to answer multiple-choice or short-answer questions relating to science and math facts or concepts.

Daniel Wright Middle School from Lincolnshire won first place and is going to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C. Jerling Junior High from Orland Park won second place while Roosevelt Middle School from River Forest won third place.

In all, 70 coaches and team members attended the event along with 26 Argonne National Laboratory and DOE volunteers.

Congratulations to the winning teams and we wish Daniel Wright Middle School the best of luck in the National Science Bowl!

Regional Winners from Daniel Wright Middle School

Following President Barack Obama’s vow to prioritize energy innovation and infrastructure in yesterday’s State of the Union address, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu held an online town hall meeting during which he further explained the administration’s stance on clean energy.

“Today we are once again seeing the benefits for the American people that come with federal investments in science and innovation,” Secretary Chu said. “With this new agreement, battery technologies developed at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are making their way into the market. By supporting American innovation, commercialization and manufacturing, this partnership is helping to boost U.S. competitiveness and create the jobs of the future.”

Secretary Chu added that continuing business as usual will have a devastating effect on the entire world and echoed President Obama’s emphasis on clean energy efforts. With the President proposing to spend more than $8 billion on the field, Chu said that the nation’s overall prosperity depends on the clean energy race.  So, what does this mean for you and for EcoCAR?

For one thing, it means more jobs. One of the administration’s goals is to have 1 million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015 and these vehicles aren’t going to design, engineer and manufacture themselves! To turn this ambitious goal into a reality, the auto industry will be looking to the next generation of engineers, especially those with AVTC experience like EcoCAR alumni! Just imagine – within a matter of years, team members currently competing in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge could be steering the auto industry into an era of not only clean energy vehicles, but ones that are highly functional with broad consumer appeal.

More information about Secretary Chu’s statements can be found here or you can view the replay video embedded below.


Today’s town hall was the first in the year-long “Energy Matters” series in which DOE experts will address issues raised by the public. You can ask energy-related questions via email, Facebook and Twitter and have them answered live online. Stay tuned for the next one!

Yesterday in a speech at the National Press Club, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu compared the 1957 Sputnik “Space Race” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the current challenges the U.S. is facing as countries like China rapidly innovate in the area of energy technology.

U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu. Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Secretary Chu posed a central question that should resonate with EcoCAR teams, sponsors and enthusiasts – Will we maintain America’s innovation leadership or will we fall behind? During the speech, he stated that “America still has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution and secure our future prosperity, but time is running out. Federal support of scientific R&D is critical to our economic competitiveness.”

How does Secretary Chu propose we secure an innovation leadership role for the United States? First, increase the support of energy R&D. Second, formulate sensible, long-range energy policies that have bipartisan support.

Innovations in energy technology, like those that come from competitions like EcoCAR, can generate significant and quantifiable public benefits, which are not presently recognized or rewarded by the free market. For the U.S. to remain competitive in the world of innovation, federal support of scientific R&D is imperative.

Watch Secretary Chu’s speech here.

It’s March Madness and that means, yes, it’s Safety/Tech Inspection time during EcoCAR. The first school to get inspected was Mississippi State University. Read their before and after story below to get a flavor of the MSU team’s intense preparation for inspection. Will they pass inspection and qualify for this year’s EcoCAR Competition? Read and watch the video below to see for yourself…

My name is Matt Doude and I am the team leader for the Mississippi State EcoCAR team. We recently had the distinction of being the calibration school for the EcoCAR on-site technical inspections that are going on this month. That means that Steven Boyd, Michael Wahlstrom, Frank Falcone, and Nicole Lambiase from the U.S. Department of Energy and Argonne National Laboratory all came down to sunny Mississippi to inspect our vehicle FIRST as well as to practice and streamline their inspection routine. They will be splitting up and going all over North America to inspect the other 15 teams as we get ready to ship our vehicles to the Year 2 Competition in Yuma, AZ (another place known for being sunny and warm.)

Leading up to the inspection, our team worked night and day to finish little tasks and get everything ready to go. Check out our video below, shot just 48 hours before our inspection to see our preparations:

One of the biggest projects during preparation was getting our A123Systems battery pack built and mounted in the car. The battery pack, along with everything else we’ve added to the car, could not possibly be a tighter fit. Our new oft-repeated team motto has become “It’s gonna be tight…” 

Working right up until the organizers arrived, however, we got everything in the car and hooked up just in time for our inspection.

The moment of truth came at the end of the inspection when we put the car on the ground and turned it on. Brian Benoy, our controls leader, shifted into reverse and smoothly backed out of the garage. The car, running in EV mode, made literally no sound as it moved. He took several people for a short ride in the parking lot and back to the garage, where it glided back in as smoothly as it left. Watch the video below to see our vehicle run on its own power!

About 48 hours after our inspection, the car was back in pieces all over the shop again as we made changes and continued to build our competition vehicle. I’m looking forward to the day when it’s together and doesn’t have to come apart again!

Virginia Tech Team In Front of Saturn VUE

Virginia Tech Team In Front of Saturn VUE

Virginia Tech kicked off year 2 of the three-year EcoCar: The NeXt Challenge competition with a first place win at Track One at F1 Racing Boston during the Fall Workshop in Boston, Mass.

Patrick Walsh, Virginia Tech’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team’s co-leader, who was the driver of the car was asked about his team’s victory.

“It’s a great way to start off this year’s competition. Go Hokies!,” said Patrick.

In addition to the F1 race, Virginia Tech team participated in technical and outreach training throughout the five day event provided by The MathWorks, one of the key sponsors of the competition in addition to Department of Energy and GM.

“The classroom sessions were productive and will prove to be very valuable as we work to integrate our designs in the GM vehicle this year,” said Lynn Gantt, co-leader of the HEVT team.

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