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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 5:44 pm 
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Location: Nordale Road area
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:42 am 
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Location: Nordale Road area
University of Alaska Fairbanks team builds lean, clean snowmachine
by Reba Lean/rlean@newsminer.com

FAIRBANKS — They came from the northernmost state, but a University of Alaska Fairbanks team didn’t have a leg up on a snowmachine engineering competition recently in Michigan. They had to work for their win.

And win they did. At the 2012 Society of Automobile Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge, UAF’s team earned first place in the zero-emissions category. They also captured awards for best design, most improved snowmachine, weight pull and the best paper on designing hybrid snowmachines. They took eighth in the internal combustion category.

The competition challenged engineering students to turn stock snowmachines into clean but still mean machines. They worked to reduce emissions and noise and increase fuel efficiency while maintaining the machine’s traditional performance.

The Alaska team had the advantage of being able to test its machines’ cold-start capabilities back home, said Isaac Thompson, a fifth-year electrical engineering senior and the zero-emissions team co-captain.

The zero-emissions group replaced a Ski-Doo Renegade XP’s engine with a battery.

“I worked in a Ski-Doo shop for four years in high school,” Thompson said. His team chose the Renegade XP because the chassis is one of the most lightweight available, he said.

They chose a long track because they thought it would get more traction than a short track, which most other competitors picked for its light weight.

They didn’t change the look of the stock machine much. Thompson said a visitor came to the group asking to see the electric machine. “You’re leaning on it, buddy,” he said.

The machine was put through all sorts of tests, including acceleration, cold starting and handling.

“One judge went out and tried it, and he came back and said, ‘Holy mother of God, this thing is fast!’” Thompson said.

The power came from a direct current rather than alternating current motor, though that choice cost the machine some efficiency. The team members also built their own motor controller and battery management system rather than purchasing them, so they knew they would work.

Thompson said his team spent a lot of time designing its machine. After he helped last year’s team with its machine building, he immediately began thinking about the next year’s challenge. He and teammate Amanda Mertes said last year’s team learned a lot from previous difficulties.

“It’s been a steep curve of incline,” Mertes said.

The team has won the “most improved” award twice in a row. Two years ago, the snowmachine wouldn’t start for any event. Last year, it started for about half of the events. This year, it ran for every event but the range test. Once the team got it running, they tested it for their own information. The battery-powered machine went more than 16 miles before stopping. It could have gone farther, Mertes said. They started the test with the batteries only 80 percent charged.

The team is still working out transportation kinks. This year, they found out as the machine was being shipped to Michigan that the batteries had to be removed from the structure. That meant 72 large-cell-phone-sized batteries were shipped in three separate buckets to their destination. When Thompson arrived 10 hours before his teammates, he spent the time reinstalling the batteries.

Now, the machine is being shipped back to the Alaska, and the team is eager to continue testing in Fairbanks.

“It was a big project, but I definitely enjoyed it,” Thompson said.

The UAF team included Thompson, Mertes, co-captain Michael Golub, Ben Neubauer, Craig McKenzie, Christin Davis, Adam Burnette, Karlin Swearingen and Russell Carroll on the zero-emissions team, and captain Robert Russell, Ian McKee, Mitchel Halverson, Sam Brewer and Tachit Chairat on the internal combustion team.

The five awards earned at the competition will be displayed in the Duckering Building on campus.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - University of Alaska Fairbanks team builds lean clean snowmachine

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