EcoCAR Kicks-Off at Boston Workshop

ecocar workshop at mathworks students

Students and faculty representing the 17 EcoCAR participating universities, along with organizers,
sponsors and the Mathworks staff came together in Natick, Mass. for intense training during the EcoCAR kick-off workshop.

Recently, students from seventeen North American universities gathered in Boston for five days of intense training to prepare them with the tools and knowledge needed to compete in EcoCAR: The NeXt Challenge. EcoCAR is a three-year collegiate advanced vehicle technology engineering competition established by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with General Motors (GM) and is being managed by Argonne National Laboratory.

Throughout the five-day training workshop, The MathWorks, a key sponsor, equipped students with the knowledge and skills to successfully design and model a functional fuel-efficient car that mirrors industry practices by using Model-Based Design and industry standard software tools. "The MathWorks supports EcoCAR to better prepare students to use math-based tools to solve complex engineering problems," said Elizabeth Callanan, corporate relations manager for The MathWorks.

matworks building and sign

During the five-day workshop, two of The Mathworks employees participating pause for a discussion near the EcoCAR Saturn Vue.

Overall goals, objectives and technical format for the competition were covered and the sessions for the students included an introduction to Model-Based Design, MATLAB tools and PSAT. "EcoCAR provides a unique opportunity for students to learn how to use advanced simulation techniques such as hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) to develop and refine control strategies that will address real-world automotive challenges," said Mike Walstrom, controls and simulation engineer for Argonne National Laboratory. In addition, GM representatives walked teams through its Vehicle Development Process to show students how they will follow a similar process to develop their advanced technology vehicles for EcoCAR.

The competition goals are to challenge university engineering students across North America to re-engineer a GM Saturn Vue to achieve improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, while retaining the vehicle's performance and consumer appeal.

Students will design and build advanced propulsion solutions that are based on the vehicle categories from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) regulations. Students will be encouraged to explore a variety of solutions including electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cells. In addition, they will incorporate lightweight materials, improve aerodynamics and utilize alternative fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen.

Argonne National Laboratory will provide competition management, team evaluation, as well as technical and logistical support.