RoseEcoCAR 2

Odyssey Day 2012

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Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT) EcoCAR 2 team was given the opportunity to attend Odyssey Day in Indianapolis on October 18th. Odyssey day is recognized as National Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) in the United States. The kickoff event was hosted by Greater Indiana Clean Cities Coalition who also plays a significant role in EcoCAR 2.  Clean Cities Coalition, provides monetary funds for our engineering and outreach team to continue to improve as we proceed into year two of competition. At the event there were estimated to be one hundred fifty companies, vehicle manufacturers and organizations that set up a display sharing information about their part in the alternative fuel industry. Several eco-friendly vehicles were on display for observation and questions about how to make a sustainable hybrid vehicle without compromising performance or safety.  RHIT was honored to advocate the EcoCAR 2 competition at this popular event. We discussed and traded our innovative ideas with other alternative fuel companies and entrepreneurs striving for more eco-friendly transportation.  There were several educational presentations on alternative fuel options, green technology and production. Crowds gathered in to listen to several companies and manufacturers speak about how they have redesigned out automotive industry.

This year’s event marked the tenth anniversary of Odyssey Day, and has grown in the past years. This Odyssey Day there were roughly one hundred fifty events nationwide taking place that day. RHIT’s EcoCAR 2 team gained significant knowledge about other alternative fuel options, the engineering behind these vehicles, and how we can distribute them cost effectively. Odyssey Day only benefited our RHIT’s EcoCAR 2 as we see on the national level how our competition can transform our automotive industry in a positive way.

Engineering for Dummies

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With book worms, technical wizards, and flat out geniuses it’s difficult for everyone else to  stay up to date on stories and issues featured in our media.  EcoCAR 2 engineering competition utilizes future engineers all over the country to produce a more eco-friendly hybrid vehicle.  These individuals often converse in ways far beyond comprehension of someone without any engineering experience.

To break it down, EcoCAR 2 develops a vehicle that doesn’t produce as many harmful gases to our environment, without compromising the quality of the car. Rose-Hulman engineering student Kyle Mason aided in some questions about EcoCAR 2 and its mission.

  1. What makes a car more eco-friendly?
    1. Engineer- The hybrid powertrain uses both an electric powertrain and conventional IC (internal combustion) powertrain.  The electric powertrain provides some of the power needed to move the vehicle which reduces the load on the conventional powertrain.  This reduced load means that the vehicle will use less gasoline.
    2. Engineering for the Dummy- Less workload put on conventional powertrain is better for the car and allows the electric powertrain to produce a better car for the environment.
  2. How will this Eco-friendly car directly affect our environment?
    1. Engineer- Our advanced hybrid powertrain allows the car to operate more efficiently which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
    2. Engineering for the Dummy- A hybrid car engine lets the car operate better while also reducing harmful gases into the air.

Broken down EcoCAR 2 is relatable to everyone. Discarding the big elaborate words and high tech jargon, it makes it easier for all society to relate to EcoCAR 2 Engineering Competition.  It simply betters our world as a whole by eliminating as many harmful air emissions. Whether you need the dummy guide or not, everyone can do their part in going green for our earth.

Why We Use CAD

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Before anything can actually be made it has to be laid out on paper first. Before the digital age this was done with pencil and paper on a drafting board. Drawings were time consuming and required a large amount of skilled draftsmen. However as technology evolved, so did much of the methods used in the design process. Today instead of using pencil and paper most drawings are done on a computer using computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Since CAD was introduced in the 1980s the time and man power needed to complete a technical drawing has been significantly reduced. Engineers no longer have to depend on a team of draftsmen, but can now do their own drafting on personal computers in a fraction of the time. There are many different types of CAD software out on the market today. The EcoCAR 2 team used Siemens’ NX to model components of EcoCAR 2. NX is also used by many major corporations such as General Motors, Caterpillar, and GE. NX helps the EcoCAR 2 team visualize and make reality of their ideas for the future of transportation.

Super Happy Trip to China

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On March 31st, 2012, Marc Herniter and Zac Chambers, the Rose-Hulman EcoCAR2 Faculty Advisors, hopped a 7:00 am flight from Indianapolis with a final destination of Changchun, China.  Working through the RHIT Office of Global Programs and its director Dr. Luchen Li, Chambers and Herniter were invited to Jilin University to provide a four day, highly intense technical short course on Model-Based System Design.  The results were spectacular.

Professor Wu Jian served as the host and overall coordinator for the course which took place in the PACE lab in the college of automotive engineering.  Designed for a capacity of 36 students, the first day of lecture was standing-room-only with 85 students in attendance.  Fortunately, attendance decreased to 74 students for the remainder of the course and consisted of 17 undergraduates, 43 graduates, 7 post docs, and 7 faculty participating.  Response was initially so overwhelming that Prof. Wu had to create an application form to limit the attendance to 85.

Utilizing material from their Advanced MBSD class, Herniter and Chambers walked the class through the process of modeling a series electric vehicle.  Starting with simply blocks from various Simulink libraries including Simscape and Stateflow, the students created a complex model of system components utilizing experimental and manufacturer data and were able to estimate fuel consumption for various drive cycles.

“This short course has hopefully both laid a foundation for MBSD at Jilin University and created a relationship which will enable Marc and I to return this summer to teach our two MBSD courses in their entirety.  We are grateful to Jilin University for the opportunity and to the MathWorks, Freescale, and Woodward MotoHawk for funding the lab at RHIT where these courses were developed,” stated Prof. Chambers.

The students were very interested in the EcoCAR2 competition and asked many questions during an open forum on Friday evening.  Chambers and Herniter also had the opportunity to meet with the college’s Formula SAE team.  Stated Prof. Herniter “EcoCAR2 is internationally recognized as the premiere advanced vehicle technology competition – we are very proud to be a competition team!”

The “Engineering” Side of Engineering Management

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When I first signed out to be the Engineering manager of Rose-Hulman’s EcoCAR2 team, I was admittedly a little apprehensive.  I had served as the lead electrical engineer for the EcoCAR team during years two and three of the competition, so I had seen the extraordinary amount of work that was required in the project.  I also knew that such a large, long, and complex project wasn’t going to be easy to balance.  This isn’t some typical academic team project that involved four people working on a group assignment for a few weeks.  No, this is multiple people, multiple years, and cutting-edge technology.  Oddest thing though, everything I’ve mentioned isn’t the real reason I was nervous.

What had me worried the most when I started my Engineering Management studies and took up the mantle of the EcoCAR2 “team leader” wasn’t about the sheer difficulty of the tasks ahead, but about the nature.  My main fear was that I would lose my technical standing, that I would become an administrative manager that was basically relegated to bureaucratic duties and paperwork, and that I would become out-of-touch with the technical aspects.  In short, I was afraid of somehow becoming the pointy-haired boss or Bill Lumbergh.  Much to my surprise (and admittedly at times also to my chagrin), this was not at all the case.

When I told my advisor that I wanted to stay technical, he didn’t look at my funny, or even skip a beat in telling me that would be fine, and easily doable.  I was a little skeptical, at least until I started learning more about engineering management and the actual duties I would need to perform.  For an engineering manager in charge of a complex project such as an EcoCAR2 team, being technically well-versed is almost a requirement in as far as the work itself as concerned, and from a managerial standpoint, understanding that those working with you are technically-minded also comes to bear in understanding how they view problems, interact with one another, and how their personal goals might align with those of the project.

As to the point of being technically versed, my initial fear that I would start losing out on using my engineering knowledge and expanding was completely turned on its head.  I have, in fact, experienced just the opposite.  While I have not learned in as much depth as my previous studies, the breadth of knowledge I need to command has vastly expanded.  Rather than just focusing on one area, one aspect, of the project, I have to understand the electrical, mechanical, controls, and all other pertinent technical aspects of the project.  While far from being an expert in any one of those fields, I have found myself learning more about each of them than previously expected.  This has admittedly even moved me outside of my comfort zone on more than one occasion, but in the end has proven invaluable experience in being able to steer decisions with a better understanding of all important aspects, not just those tied to a single facet.

Beyond the technical diversity encountered, the management itself has quite a few technical aspects that I would not have anticipated.  In essence “Engineering Management” could quite easily be thought of as “Managerial Engineering” in some sense.  The application of systems engineering, model-based approaches, and the quantitative and qualitative use of metrics to better understand and improve the managerial aspect of projects and organizations has led to the wonderful observation that it is in fact still the wonderful process of applying tools and logic to solve problems that makes engineering so intriguing and fun.

Rose-Hulman EcoCAR 2 Reflection on Nation Instrument visit

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Rose-Hulman’s EcoCAR2 team recently took a trip to National Instrument’s (NI) headquarters located in Austin Texas. Rose-Hulman’s team was invited to take a tour of NI’s facilities when they were down in Austin for EcoCAR 2’s Winter Workshop.
NI employs approximately 5,000 people and is a producer of automated test equipment and virtual instrumentation software (such as LabVIEW). While on tour the Rose-Hulman team visited NI’s Application Engineering Department. It was thrilling for the team to speak to working engineers across a multitude of disciplines that called NI home. Some of those engineers happened to be Rose-Hulman alumni and it was great for the team to converse with people of similar roots.
NI’s Applications Engineering Department’s work environment was very open and laid back, however the engineers were still hard at work. This seemed to foster communication amongst the engineers, and is the same type of environment which the Rose-Hulman EcoCAR 2 team strives to create.
The trip to National Instruments headquarters in Austin Texas was a great experience for the team. The Rose-Hulman was thrilled to be invited, and is very thankful for NI giving them such a hands on opportunity.

Importance of Taking Part in Earth Day Celebration

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With Earth Day right around the corner, April 22nd, we are reminded how crucial it has become for us to be eco-friendly in our hectic lives.  Car pollution is one of the most impactful pollutants with harmful emissions.  Carbon monoxide is the primary pollutant emitted from cars, making cars the highest cause of air pollutants.  Over 333 million tons of carbon dioxide are emitted on an annual basis in the United States according to the Environmental Defense Fund. That amounts to one fifth of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. This is why, General Motors and the Department of Energy created EcoCAR, to engineer more environmental friendly vehicles and reduce the leading cause of air pollution.

EcoCAR 2 engineering competition allows our future generation to design more efficient ways to produce vehicles on the road.  It limits our gas emissions and ultimately reduces the harmful effect on our planet. Each three year competition continues to produce a more eco-friendly car without compromising quality and safety.

Earth Day is all about “Going Green” and making these choices an ongoing lifestyle. EcoCAR 2 is one eco-friendly project being done to improve our nation’s carbon footprint. Rose-Hulman’s EcoCAR 2 team is partnering up with Northwest Indiana Earth Day Celebration in Valparaiso, Indiana that takes place on April 21st.  We are also participating in Indiana State University’s Earth Week, April 9th-13th.  Support your local community on Earth Day and get active helping our earth growth to be a better place.  For more information on how you can get involved and show your support, visit:

“Greening Up” The Future

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Last year was widely seen as the first year of the “new electric car era.”   The first volume electric cars were launched in the form of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf, and these dominated the headlines at the major auto shows.  A lot of people were given the opportunity to test the vehicles out and students from EcoCAR 2 used a real world engineering process to design and integrate their advance technology solution into a GM donated vehicle.

EcoCAR 2 is a three-year collegiate student engineering competition and the only program of its kind.  EcoCAR 2 competition task offers a hands on experience to redify the next generation of motorized engineers.   The competition mission is to challenge different universities to decrease the environmental effect of automobiles without conceding real world performance or safety.  

Rose-Hulman EcoCAR 2 plans to keep “Greening up Their Future” with some fun and exciting upcoming events for the remainder of year one.  EcoCAR 2 team members recently visited Rockville Jr. – Sr. High School to speak with juniors and seniors in a pre-calculus class.  A presentation was given over EcoCAR 2 and how it is changing the future.  For the month of April we will be visiting Turkey Run High School’s career unit, which helps juniors in high school decide where they want to go to college, by having different universities and their student ran organizations present to speak to perspective students.  Terre Haute West Vigo High School is on our stop as well, on our campaign, “Greening up the Future.”

Revenge of the Electric Car Viewing Party

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Sunday, February 12, 2012 the Rose-Hulman EcoCAR 2 team gathered early to set-up for the Revenge of the Electric Car Viewing Party.  We were able to have Terre Haute Chevrolet donated vehicles to display outside our hosting venue, Hatfield Hall, on Rose-Hulman’s campus. The Chevrolet Volt, Cruze, and Rose-Hulman’s EcoCAR were a main attraction with guests, as well as media. The Tribune Star, WTHI-News Channel 10, and WTWO News Channel 2 were among the media in attendance. The fair weather allowed team members to interact with guests, giving insight on the EcoCAR as well as EcoCAR 2’s program. Mingling before the viewing of the hour and a half film, the team was able to distribute some of our SWAG materials such as pens, eco bags, sunglasses, and wristbands. The amount of guest in attendance was unexpected.

Although we didn’t get the turnout we expected, the team was not discouraged.  We as a team successfully planned an event without witnessing complications along the way. Rose-Hulman EcoCAR team was able to receive outstanding media coverage that supports the EcoCAR 2 program and brining awareness to the community. What we all can take from this event is to have a more creative approach when advertising for future events. For the month of March we are focusing on high school visits to raise awareness and recruit perspective students who may be interested in Rose-Hulman, Indiana State, and the EcoCAR 2 competition.  In April we are taking part in more community and educational events.  We will take part in Indiana State University’s Earth Week.  We will be hosting an unveiling party in May when we receive the competition vehicle, a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

Fulfillment from EcoCAR 2: A Sophomores’s Perspective

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My interest with EcoCAR 2 began when a teacher’s assistant in my communications course recruited for the program.  Initially, I was looking to be involved in more programs on campus that were relevant to my major.  EcoCAR 2 has changed my perspective on green vehicles.  I have become more knowledgeable about green vehicles over my process as an outreach team member.

At a recent event, I was able to witness a Chevrolet Volt and all that it the vehicle offers (I want an electric car now!).  When learning more about EcoCAR 2 and the experience that I could potentially gain, I become more intrigued.  Joining EcoCAR 2’s outreach team, I believed would foster my personal development as well as the professionalism in my future career. Enhancing my skills leading to a good acquisition of professionalism, EcoCAR 2 has been satisfying to this point.  EcoCAR 2 has assisted me developmentally giving me the opportunity to apply strengths and practice them in an environment offering opportunities for growth and application of my strengths.  The team members in which I work with are well-knowledge, skilled professionals assisting in the professional development of my career as an intern. The team provides me with clarity and evident orders stated at a quality professional level clarifying any misunderstood information to accommodate my understanding.  Thus far, EcoCAR 2 has given me the necessary steps to achieve the overall desired goals of the program as well as fulfillment both personally and professionally.  I look forward to continuing work with EcoCAR 2 in the near future!