BYU mechanical engineering students placed second at the Shell Eco Marathon Challenge in Detroit this year when their newly designed supermileage vehicle traveled over 1,700 miles on a single gallon of gas.
The BYU team of seven engineering capstone students and three volunteers, traveled to Detroit, where it competed against 56 other vehicles from schools across the United States and Canada. The team’s entry traveled 1,709 miles on its best run — the best distance for any American school — and only fell behind the first place entry from Quebec’s Laval University.
One challenge the team faced was the competition runs took place on both Saturday and Sunday. The BYU team was dedicated to observing the sabbath and left the competition early with the hope its times would remain unbeaten.
“When the Sunday running was over and the results still showed us in second place, it still took a while to sink in,” said BYU senior and mechanical engineering major Jared Lutz. “All of the hard work paid off and we were able to be good representatives of BYU and learn a ton along the way.”
Changes in the competition layout also shook things up. Contestants have previously created a vehicle that would run loops around a small track. Judges would then measure the amount of fuel burned over a given distance and how much the car could travel on a full tank. However, this year’s entries actually navigated the streets of Detroit through a six-mile course.
The team’s second-place finish comes as the result of a unique engine design that was made completely from scratch. Students have modified pre-existing engines in past years, but after a two-year effort, the team put together a new engine that improved upon previous designs.
“We have excellent students,” said faculty advisor and mechanical engineering professor Dale Tree. “When you give them an opportunity, they perform well. Our department makes a conscious effort to give undergraduates these opportunities any way we can.”
Mechanical engineering capstone students have the chance to be apart of BYU’s team at the Shell Eco Marathon Challenge each year. The team also accepts non-capstone volunteers who are interested in participating.