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Mississippi State’s champion EcoCAR 2 team again is competing for the prized top title in year two of a challenge that puts students and their work through rigorous tests and rewards them with unparalleled hands-on automotive engineering experience.

Titled “EcoCAR 2: Plugging In to the Future,” the three-year collegiate engineering competition is the only program of its kind. In 2012, the MSU team was named year-one winners in Los Angeles, earning 952 of a possible 1,000 competition points and bringing home $13,000 in prize money and five individual category awards. The team impressed the judges with its series-parallel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle design.

The competition challenges 15 competitively selected collegiate teams from universities across North America to reduce the environmental impact of a Chevrolet Malibu without compromising performance, safety or consumer acceptability.

While the first year of competition focused on computer-based modeling and simulations to test the teams’ design ideas, the current challenge tests the implementation of those designs. The team’s year-long efforts and meticulous work to construct a fully-functioning hybrid vehicle from the designs proposed during year one now are under scrutiny by industry expert judges. Each vehicle competing in EcoCAR 2 has been through rigorous tests this week in Yuma, Ariz., and the team will continue competing through the coming week in San Diego.

“Having a project like this gives knowledge you can’t learn in the classroom,” said Tom Goddette, a mechanical engineering graduate student and five-year veteran of MSU’s EcoCAR 2 and the preceding EcoCAR team.

He explained that the process of designing, building and then refining an energy efficient vehicle is the same process GM uses in designing their own vehicles.

He added that in addition to the intense learning experience the competition offers, employment and networking opportunities for student participants are very beneficial. Industry employers regard participation in an advanced vehicle technology competition as similar to the first years of full-time work experience, giving EcoCAR 2 team members a big competitive advantage upon entering the workforce.

Goddette and his fellow EcoCAR 2 team member Josh Hoop, both already have accepted offers to work with AVL Power Train in Ann Arbor, Mich. this fall after completing master’s degrees in mechanical engineering.

EcoCAR 2 is the latest three-year collegiate advanced vehicle technology competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors. Managed by Argonne National Laboratory, the competition evaluates how teams meet technical goals designed to support industry’s need for engineers well versed in advanced vehicle propulsion. In preparing their team’s car, students incorporate lightweight materials into the vehicles, improve aerodynamics, and utilize alternative fuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen.

The goals are to design and integrate vehicle powertrains that, when compared to the production gasoline vehicle, reduce petroleum energy consumption on the basis of a total fuel cycle analysis; reduce fuel consumption; reduce well-to-wheel and greenhouse gas emissions; and reduce criteria tailpipe emissions.

EcoCAR 2 also includes a communications and outreach component, as well as a business component, to mirror a real-world model in which many disciplines and professions must come together to form a cohesive functional organization.

Along with MSU faculty advisor Marshall Molen, who is the Diversified Technology/Ergon Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, EcoCAR 2 team members traveling to the competition include:

ABERDEEN–Wesley R. Haney, a mechanical engineering junior and the son of Alan and Trellis Haney;

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.–Joshua C. “Josh” Hoop, mechanical group leader for the team, is a mechanical engineering graduate student and the son of Louie and Cathy Hoop;

COLUMBUS–William Blake Brown, a mechanical engineering doctoral student and the son of William Brown and Candice Brown;

DECATUR, Ala.–Kyle F. Williams, a mechanical engineering senior and the son of Franklin and Linda Williams;

EADS, Tenn.–Stephen F. Hayden, a mechanical engineering sophomore and the son of Ted and Susan Hayden;

HATTIESBURG–Hagan D. Walker, an electrical engineering junior and the son of James and Leigh Walker;

KINGWOOD, Texas–Brooks C. Davis, business manager for the team, is an industrial engineering graduating senior and the son of Gerald Davis and Amelia Wright;

MADISON–Lee H. Sargent, an electrical engineering sophomore and the son of Grady and Caffey Sargent;

MERIDIAN–Trenton L. Workman, a computer science senior and the son of Robert and Carol Workman;

MOSS POINT–Elizabeth Claire Faccini, communications manager for the team, is a communication/journalism and public relations senior and the daughter of Peter and Patricia Faccini;

PENSACOLA, Fla.–Thomas C. “Tom” Goddette, a mechanical engineering graduate student and the son of James and Catherine Goddette;

UNION–Jon G. Moore, control group leader for the team, is a chemical engineering senior and the son of Gary Moore and Wanda Hurley;

WOODLAND–Yance A. Falkner, a communication/public relations senior and son of William and Valeria Falkner.

For updates from MSU’s EcoCAR 2 team, follow them on twitter at @MSStateEcoCAR2.

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