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Rose-Hulman Team Achieves 1,476 mpg to be Top U.S. College in Shell Eco-Marathon

April 22, 2011

A year filled with many firsts ended up with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's Efficient Vehicles Team placing first among U.S. colleges and universities in this year's Shell Eco-Marathon Americas 2011 competition, conducted April 14-17 in Houston, Texas.


Getting Most Out Of Vehicle: Allyson Nelson concentrates on keeping Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's new efficient vehicle on the most efficient racing line around the track during the recent Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition in Houston, Texas.   (Photo from Allen White).

Rose-Hulman's new vehicle achieved a remarkable 1,476 mpg to place third overall, and being the top American collegiate entry, in this annual competition that pushes the boundaries of innovative fuel efficiency solutions.  There were over 700 students from 62 teams at the event, with 32 vehicles joining Rose-Hulman in being powered by gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines.

Laval University of Canada won the prototype class for the third consecutive year with a car that could go 2,565 miles per gallon.  Evansville's Mater Dei High School was second.

This year, Rose-Hulman students designed and finished a completely new car -- in only seven weeks -- that featured the first carbon fiber chassis and a modified 25cc Honda engine.  Also, the college had an improved second vehicle (which finished fifth at 1,205 mpg) from past Eco-marathon competitions that had been outfitted with a new fuel injection system.  Both vehicles had new drivers, adding more intrigue to the team's performance.

"What we were able to achieve this year was a total team accomplishment," pointed out Rose-Hulman Efficient Vehicles Team President Stephen Sakai.  He especially pointed out the contributions of team members Matt Devonish and Zak Eckert, mechanical engineering students who spent countless hours building the new car since early March.

"There were long, sleepless nights throughout the competition, but everyone worked very hard and we got a great result to show for it," stated Sakai.

Hard Working Team: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students (from left) Paul Himes, Blaine Castongia, Jesse Garcia and James Allen prepare their car for inspection during the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas 2011 competition.  (Photo Courtesy of Shell Eco-Marathon)  

Allen White, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and team faculty advisor, stated: "We made significant changes to the body of new vehicle and to the fuel system of our classic vehicle throughout the competition.  The changes were successful and we showed improvement each time on the track.  I am very proud of the team, especially the way the students fought to overcome difficulties and did not give up."

Rose-Hulman finished ahead of teams from the University of Illinois, University of Colorado, Northern Illinois University and Louisiana Tech in the gasoline fueled internal combustion engine division.

Allyson Nelson, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, was behind the wheel for the top-performing Rose-Hulman vehicle.  She achieved her goal to get as much gas mileage out of the vehicle as possible.

"It was a very proud moment to sit in the car for the first time and start the engine after arriving in Houston," she said.  "I took a few of my teammates with me out to walk around the track to determine the best line I could follow to aid in achieving our efficiency goal . . . The guys who designed and built the car did a magnificent job.  Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I'm very glad to have shared it with the whole team.  Everyone did tremendous work."

Rose-Hulman's fifth-place classic vehicle was driven by Alexandra Schwier, a sophomore biomedical engineering major.

The Efficient Vehicles Team is part of Rose-Hulman's Advanced Transportation Systems Program (ATSP), which embodies the education, practice and scholarship of advanced transportation technologies and methodologies necessary to the development of the next generation of innovative engineers, scientists and mathematicians who will design and build future global transportation systems. 

Learn more about the advanced transportation teams here