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Ohio State sweeps EcoCAR 3 competition

 

Showcasing the high caliber of Buckeye student research, EcoCAR 3 at The Ohio State University took first place in the final year of the Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Co. 

This is the fourth consecutive win for the Buckeyes. 

Although the team is populated primarily by Ohio State Mechanical Engineering (ME) students, many of its leadership roles are filled by Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) majors as well.

Each student involved said the experience has already helped catapult their career goals moving toward graduation.

EcoCAR 3 is a four-year collegiate automotive engineering competition that challenges 16 North American universities to redesign a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro to further reduce its environmental impact while maintaining the iconic Camaro performance and safety.

In addition to the coveted first place trophy and bragging rights, the team also took home $33,000 to further support the university’s advanced vehicle technology program.

ECE student Evan Stoddart served as EcoCAR 3 Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) Team Leader this year. A Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State, he said being on the team inspired his confidence and leadership skills toward completing long-term engineering projects. He knows it will help his job hunt going forward.

“EcoCAR will have a tremendous impact on my future career,” he said. “I learned how to manage a large multidisciplinary project before graduating from school, which is a great talking point in interviews. EcoCAR has given me years of experience before I even accept my first job.”

Stoddart initially joined the team because he was interested in learning more about cars and working with his hands. It turned into a whole new path for him, educationally.

“I soon became involved in the ADAS project to design a sensor/computer system to assist the driver with normal operations, and loved how I could apply my coursework to the project,” he said. “This project has advanced my skill set with computers and sensors and helped me realize what I want to do in industry.”

Ohio State’s crew won 18 awards, including the NSF Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Award, the NSF Outstanding Advisor Award (team faculty advisor Shawn Midlam-Mohler) and the first place NSF Innovation Award.

Individual team members also earned awards, including electrical team lead Kerri Loyd, an ECE student, who received the General Motors Women in Engineering “Rookie Award” Award. Given out every year to an undergraduate student in the competition showing exceptional potential in engineering leadership, Lloyd said she was very proud of the win.

“It has done a lot to promote the recruitment and retention of women in engineering,” she said. “For this award, I had to present to a panel of judges about my contributions to the team this past year, along with some of the events and programs I have helped out with to promote women in engineering.”

Lloyd said her love of working with cars was formed early on by helping her father in the garage at home.

“I knew that when I got to college, I would want to continue pursuing this passion that I had for the automotive industry,” she said. “I quickly realized how valuable of a program EcoCAR would be and have decided to stay a member year after year. Being a member of this amazing team has definitely been one of the best decisions I have made since coming to Ohio State.”

Simon Trask is a team member and graduate student studying both mechanical and electrical engineering at Ohio State. He originally planned on taking a more research-based spot on EcoCAR 3, to learn more about theoretical powertrain control and simulation.

“After seeing the Camaro and learning more about the team, I knew I would regret missing the opportunity to help build the amazing AVTC program here,” Trask said. “EcoCAR has grown me into a new person. I have been gifted the opportunity to grow my leadership and engineering skills at an amazing rate. Through the EcoCAR team at Ohio State I’ve been able to research a broad area of topics including: behavioral psychology, autonomous driving, systems engineering, and control theory.”

Midlam-Mohler said the entire team excelled across the board in their presentations.

“Our students are able to build a great car, but they’re also able to communicate in both written and oral communication—the thought process, the design, the validation—all of that effort that goes into building a car,” he said. “But our overall our team philosophy focused on building students instead of building a car.”

ECE alumnus Andrew Huster served in key roles throughout the competition before graduating, including team leader in 2017. Having the opportunity to work on EcoCAR ultimately influenced on his career goals. Today, he serves as a feature integration engineer at General Motors.

"I’m very proud of the team and grateful for the effort that every team member put in over the last four years. Sweeping every year of an AVTC competition has never been done before. It’s an incredible achievement," he said.

Ohio State’s team remained in first place going into the competition and earned 895 out of 1,000 overall points.

One feature that set apart the Buckeyes’ vehicle from their competitors is its electrically heated catalyst, which reduced startup emissions by 85 percent.

“We actually had fuel economy that was 20 percent higher than our next competitor in that area,” Brandon Bishop said, team lead and engineering manager.

ECE students involved said the mutual respect between team members helped Ohio State rise to the top.

“Our relationships on the team are built out of a trust that the people next to us are reliable and smart. Everyone is responsible for their own teams and projects, we have neither the time nor the energy to micromanage,” Trask said. “Every year we find members who really thrive in this environment and want to take on more responsibility. Through mentorship and hands-on experience we help them grow to be driving forces on the team. What it comes down to is the attitude of the student members of the team and the idea that they want to produce their best work.” 

“When we design, we discuss ideas as a team and make sure the path we choose is justified,” Stoddart said. “Strong communication has certainly been a big contributor to our team success.”

Lloyd said Ohio State provides a tremendous amount of support and resources to the program. Access to facilities such as CAR and Transportation Research Center are vital.

In addition to sweeping all four years of EcoCAR 3, in 2014 the Buckeyes also captured top honors in the final year of the EcoCAR 2: Plugging In To The Future competition.

“EcoCAR3 is a great program that fosters future generations of automotive engineers and business people, encouraging them to become true innovators,” Ken Morris said, General Motors vice president of Global Product Programs. “This year’s winners—and all the teams—are proof of that. It’s a competition that GM is proud to support.” 

West Virginia University and the University of Alabama took second and third place in the competition, respectively.

The Ohio State EcoCAR sponsors include Parker-Hannifin, Cooper Tires, Clean Fuels Ohio, Transportation Research Center, TE Connectivity, Johnson Controls, Parker, Tremec, Ford, Honda, 3dparts.com and Modern Driveline.

The EcoCAR 3 competition is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. Additional sponsors include MathWorks; National Science Foundation; California Air Resources Board; NXP; AVL Powertrain Engineering; the Bosch Group; ETAS; PACCAR; dSpace, Inc.; Snap-on Tools; Siemens PLM Software; GKN Driveline; Transportation Research Center; HORIBA; DENSO; Champlain Cable; Woodward; Proterra; Ricardo; Mentor Automotive; New Eagle; Gage Products; Tesa Tape; Vector CANtech, Inc.; Delphi Foundation; EcoMotors; Electric Power Research Institute, Inc.; A123 Systems; Flextronics; and Samsung, SDI.

Media: Photos and video of the Ohio State EcoCAR team are available online for download. Media contact: Candi Clevenger, clevenger.87@osu.edu, 614-292-4064.

Story contributions by Allison Mellor, Ohio State EcoCAR team co-communications manager and Ryan Horns, ECE/IMR Communications Specialist