Eco team building car for contest

BY Maggie Jackson


Members of UDM’s eco-marathon team not only have their eyes on expanding their group, they also have a bigger goal in mind: winning an international competition.

After about a six-year hiatus, a few students in the School of Engineering decided to revamp the team.

“Shell Gasoline hosts a competition for high school and college students where you have to build a car that can run ten laps using the least amount of energy possible,” said freshman civil engineering major Mark Anthony Calcaterra.

Shell’s Eco-Marathon features three international competitions, and Detroit will be hosting one for the next three years.

“The goal is to make a fuel-economic vehicle,” said freshman robotics and mechatronics major Diego Moran. “We get a tiny bit of gas, not even enough to fill up a Coke bottle, that we are allowed to use. We use that to make ten laps. The team that holds the record for the most laps was around 3,000.”

Previously, the UDM team competed in the Baja Competition, which Moran said was more of an off-road go-cart kind of race.

While the team wanted to again participate in the Baja Competition, members said that Eco-Marathon was more suited to what they were studying.

Before members compete at Cobo in April, they must first complete their car, a project they have been working on since the beginning of the school year.

“Right now we are working with a prototype, but the finished product will be very similar,” said Moran. “It will have an outer shell around it that is made out of carbon fiber. The driver will sit towards the front with a steering mechanism and all of the electronics, like the motor, will be towards the back.”

The team recently received their engine, which allows them to get more work done.

Twenty members comprise team, but they are looking to expand.

Calcaterra and Moran emphasized that the group is not limited to just engineering majors.

“We actually encourage people from different degrees to come and join because it brings a different aspect to everything,” said Moran. “It is also cool for us to show them what engineers do and then they can show us what they do in, like, business or law.”

One thing the group does require, however, is that those who become involved participate in building the car.

“Everybody has to put at least one touch on the vehicle,” said Moran. “Everybody on the team has to make a part. You have to contribute.”

There are lots of ways to contribute.

“Before we got the engine, we were doing some other kinds of work,” said Moran. “We established different types of groups. There are rules, project managers, personal resource and design.”

The rules group, for example, studied the rules of the competition.

“We read through all of the competition rules and deadlines and decided what we could and could not have,” he said. “When that was decided, we designed the car. We basically just CAD the image and then went through and looked at different vehicles to see what other teams have done.”

Freshman mechanical engineering major Sam Gibbons said that in order to maintain the limited amount of fuel that they have, they must calculate the miles per gallon off of how far you have gone and how much fuel is left.

Shell requires that eligible teams submit their work through them so that they can monitor the progress of each group.

There are three phases. The team is on phase three, which is mainly paperwork to make sure that the car is safe enough to drive.

“We also perform stress tests inside the image so that we can see that our main frame can support the weight,” said Gibbons. “We do this so that when we build it, we know that it is going to work.”

The team is working around almost around the clock to ensure that the car is ready in time.

“Our working schedule usually lasts from the earliest someone gets out of class until the Engineering Building closes at midnight,” said Calcaterra.

Gibbons added that there are some nights where members are there longer because they have only two months to the competition.

Moran said that this experience has been an incredible learning opportunity.

“Coming in I had no idea what to do,” said Moran. “We each had an idea, so I took my idea and structured everything around that. I know more now than I did at the beginning so that I can apply that and correct myself. We really do have a good, hard-working group. For being a group of freshmen and working around the clock on this, it is very impressive.”   

Calcaterra said that he hopes that members of the UDM community come out to support them in April. 

He also added that it is not too late to join.

“We welcome anyone,” said Moran. “Just come out and see what our group is all about. If you find that it is not for you, then it is not for you. At least try if you are interested.”

The team is trying to get it’s name out.

“If you don’t want to join, come out the competition and see what this is all about,” he said. “We are probably going to be watching the other teams and saying, ‘Oh, so that is how they did that,’ and we’ll learn their tricks.”

The business meeting times, as well as the work schedule, are posted on the team’s Facebook page, Titan Motorsport Racing.