The BYU engineering team returned home from the SAE Supermileage Competition last week with their custom supermileage vehicle and a major victory.
A team of seven BYU seniors studying mechanical engineering traveled to Michigan to find out which school could build the most fuel-efficient vehicle. BYU won best overall fuel economy with 1,331 miles per gallon.
Each school was given multiple runs to get the best mileage. The top three schools, Penn State, BYU and Northern Illinois, were all neck and neck throughout most of the event. The top contenders all got their best runs right at the end.
“It was kind of like watching a basketball game,” said Jerry Bowman, associate professor of mechanical engineering and faculty advisor for the team. “Three teams contended for first place. We would beat them and then they would beat us. It was really exciting. We came home and watched the NBA Finals and said, ‘This is boring.'”
The team’s composite specialist, Eric Wilcox from San Diego, explained what the experience was like for him.
“Every car would come in and they would post the mileage, but we kept staying on top,” Wilcox said. “That was really cool.”
The team had hoped to get better gas mileage than they did because the vehicle had tested much better back in Provo. However, competition showed that other factors can play a big role in success.
“We got 1,800 mpg once in practice,” team member Eric Wardell from Tucson, Ariz., said. “In Michigan though, everyone was having a hard day in the cold. A large part of it was how could you adjust.”
The competition and experience that these students gained from the process has proven to be a stepping stone for them. Two of the team members have attained internships with Ford Motor Co., and others will be going on to pursue higher education and other career goals.
“I’m going to grad school in the fall,” student driver, Caroline Sorenson said. “I’m going to MIT. This car was definitely a big thing on my resume.”
After a successful competition and year, Sorensen summed it all up.
“Really good team. Really good coach. Really good car,” Sorenson said.