What do a 3-D printer, ethanol, fund-raising, and automotive engineering have in common? They are all things that 20 YES! students from Glencoe-Silver Lake High School and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa High School learned about at the recent Exploring the Ethanol Industry and Automotive Design Practices Winter Workshop in Glencoe. Both teams have hopes of completing a vehicle for the MTEEA Supermilege Challenge, which takes place annually at the Brainerd International Raceway in May.
The GSL team produced a vehicle last year that achieved 164 mpg during the competition (it had achieved higher mpg during test runs but there was some equipment malfunction during the competition). They are aiming to better that statistic this year by modifying last year’s vehicle and competing in the E-85 division and entering a separate vehicle in the modified division. BBE is considering entering a vehicle in next school year’s competition, but wanted to learn more about it now.
The students were excited about the day and about participating the Supermileage Challenge. When asked why they wanted to be a part of the competition, which includes building a high-mileage vehicle, students gave responses such as “I want to go into engineering”, “I like engines and I wanted to learn more about them”, “I have enjoyed gaining skills, like how to work in a team”, “Racing runs in my blood”, and “I want to learn more about how to get better gas mileage”.
The speakers for the day harnessed the energy and enthusiasm of these students. Tim Rudnicki, Executive Director of the MN Bio-Fuels Association, spoke to the students about the importance of thinking about what goes into their fuel. It was an engaging presentation that covered the history of fuel, Minnesota’s role in the bio-fuels industry, and lots of important information about ethanol. He encouraged the students to take a tour of a local ethanol plant, which they will plan to do this spring.
Jon Olmstead of the Automotive Engineering Program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, dazzled the students with information about emissions and performance testing, fuel studies, and best practices for automotive design. He also showed they some videos of MSU-Mankato students participating in similar Supermileage competitions. The students tapped into his knowledge and asked lots of questions about how they can get their vehicle to achieve the best fuel mileage possible.
Overall it was an educational and inspirational day, thanks to the wonderful presentations by our speakers and the great questions from the YES! students.
Be on the lookout for stories about other Winter Workshops that YES! is hosting this season!