Cougars create gas-efficient cars
Three teams from UH are competing in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, a global program that asks students to design, build and test the most energy-efficient vehicles.
Whichever team creates the car that goes the farthest distance using the least amount of energy, wins the weekend-long competition — hosted by Houston for four years in a row — in Discovery Green Park and George R. Brown Convention Center.
The goal is to challenge last year’s 2,188 miles per gallon accomplishment.
Mechanical engineering technology senior Quan Ta, the leader for team Gladius, said he is confident in his team’s vehicle — a biodiesel-powered vehicle about the size of the original Mini Cooper.
“We are passionate and dedicated,” Ta said. “Our focus is to win the competition in the Urban Concept category with our biodiesel car.”
Leading the rival Daedalus team, mechanical engineering technology senior Michael Aselin said he has worked for 11 months and is hopeful his team’s hydrogen-fueled cell car will win.
“We have a good, robust design,” Aselin said. “Our team work and communication skills have proved to be our strongest assets.”
Shell Eco-marathon started as the Shell Mileage Marathon in 1939 between employees of Shell at a research laboratory in Wood River, Ill. The engineers asked themselves, “How far can we go on a gallon of gas?”
The answer then was 50 miles.
With more than two successful decades in Europe, this mileage challenge came back to the U.S. with the debut of Shell Eco-marathon Americas in April 2007 to continue to challenge the brightest minds for innovative solutions to the energy challenge.
“As the energy capital of the world, as well as Shell’s US headquarters, Houston seemed a natural choice for this new setting,” said Project Manager Ignacio Gonzalez.
“Moving the mileage challenge to Shell’s US hometown also provided the chance to demonstrate to employees and Houstonians alike our deep commitment to find responsible, sustainable solutions to address the growing demand for energy worldwide.”
From design to finance, Shell Eco-marathon students learn to manage a project from start to finish while continuing to build their skills in science, technology, mathematics and business.
“This competition has challenged me as an engineering student in both design and fabrication,” Ta said. “Logistics with suppliers and outside services have to be well maintained to get products on time — this is something you can’t teach in a classroom. There will always be a better way to do something. Sometimes it is hard to spot the defect.”
New to Shell Eco-marathon Americas is an interactive learning experience that provides visitors who are interested in engineering and technology a unique opportunity to engage with energy solutions through hands-on displays and activities.
In addition to the vehicle challenge, this year’s event will include a “Mobility Footprint Zone” that includes a kinetic dance floor and allows visitors to race toy cars powered by salt water.
Also included is the Formula 1 Car Display by Shell, a “Yellow Brick Road Tour” that guides visitors through the past, present and future of energy efficiency as well as the “mPowering Action Mobile Recording Studio” debuted at the 2013 Grammy’s that offers visitors the chance to record songs or messages about their own energy solutions for the future.
Shell introduced a new off-track award – The Global Energy Challenge: A Look to the Future. This new award asks the students participating in Shell Eco-marathon to share their thoughts on how the world can meet its changing energy demands.
Participating students were asked to submit an infographic answering an energy-related question prior to arriving at the event. Winners will be announced during the award ceremony on Sunday night.
This program is part of Shell’s efforts to find alternative sources of energy.
“Concerns are escalating about the planet’s finite resources and the increasing pressures they will be placed under by a growing, aging and more affluent population in the coming decades,” Gonzalez said.
“We are going to need to work together to find a solution to the problem, so these hands-on displays and activities are a manifestation of our desire to engage everyone, not just participating teams, in thinking about a sustainable future.”