WVU finishes sixth in EcoCAR Mobility Challenge Year Four competition; Nix receives NSF Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award
Following four years devoted to redesigning the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer into an energy-efficient hybrid vehicle, the West Virginia University EcoCAR team has placed sixth overall in Year Four of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge competition, bringing home $14,500 in awards.
Story by Adrianne Uphold, Multimedia Specialist
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and MathWorks, EcoCAR is a collegiate automotive engineering competition that tasked 11 universities across North America to redesign the 2019 Chevrolet Blazer to show how they implement their designs, energy-efficient technologies, carsharing capabilities and communication strategies. The EcoCAR team is a collaborative cross disciplinary project from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, Reed College of Media and John Chambers College of Business and Economics.
The EcoCAR team brought home first place awards in Drive Quality and the CAV Perception Systems and ACC Drive Quality Evaluation. The team also placed second in the overall Communications Program.
“We would not have been able to succeed to the level we have without the tireless efforts of our graduate team leads and undergraduate team members,” Andrew Nix, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and lead faculty adviser for EcoCAR, said. “Dr. Woerner and I can lead the team and provide them with guidance and support, but ultimately the students are the ones who do the design work, integrate and test the vehicle systems, prepare the deliverable reports and give the competition presentations. Their success means team success.”
The goals for the final year in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge was to refine vehicle controls strategies to minimize energy consumption and to refine connected and automated vehicle systems to achieve a greater level of autonomy to allow the vehicle to control acceleration and deceleration. The students' work allowed the vehicle to achieve adaptive cruise control and the team focused on refining vehicle integration and consumer appeal.
“To continue to excel in communications is important to our team, and we are extremely proud of the second-place finish,” Nix said. “The technical awards are a testament to the hard work of our propulsion controls and CAVs teams in calibration of the team installed hardware and software.”
Out of approximately 1000 points possible, only 27 points separated the third through sixth place teams in the competition, according to Brian Woerner, professor in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and EcoCAR co-faculty adviser.
“Statler College students excel at building systems that work,” Woerner said. “It is a testament to our student's hard work so that our car placed first in drive quality, CAV Perception Systems and ACC Drive Quality. Our students put in an incredible amount of work in their preparation for the competition. On the mornings when we went to the Summit Point Raceway for testing and calibration, I would arrive at our lab at 5 a.m., only to find that a group of students who had been at the lab an hour earlier to pack up all of our test equipment."
The EcoCAR Mobility Challenge has been a program for students to discover what it truly means to be a leader. Colin Kellett, a graduate mechanical engineering student and EcoCAR engineering manager, said he has uncovered the complexities of managing a large team, as not everyone requires the same work environment.
“The biggest takeaway that the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge has taught me is that being a leader takes time and that embracing that challenge early on makes a leader more successful,” Kellett said. “Becoming a leader in this program has allowed me to develop the time management and team bonding skills that will set me apart from other candidates in the engineering field when I graduate.”
Determination, passion and a lot of effort team members put into the challenge over the years to solve complex engineering problems allowed the team to shine in competition.
“Whether it was coming in outside of class time, assisting in multiple projects at once or working as a team even though there are different swim lanes speaks to the success our team found,” Kellett said. “Moving forward, emphasizing the importance of inter-team communication and hard work will allow the WVU EcoCAR team to continue to be successful in the EV challenge starting this fall.”
Along with the team awards, Nix received the National Science Foundation (NSF) Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award for his excellence in transforming the frontiers of science and engineering through research and education for his students.
“To win this award is very special to me, since the nomination and testimonials come from the student leadership on the team, and panels of judges from NSF and other organizations make the award decision,” Nix said. “I was overwhelmed when I heard my name announced, and I am humbled to be recognized by my students and peers.”
The award recognizes Nix for his success in incorporating EcoCAR goals, objectives and activities into the undergraduate engineering curriculum at Statler College. He was awarded $10,000 that will be used to advance the WVU EcoCAR team in future competitions, including possibly purchasing a new vehicle trailer.
“To his students, Dr. Nix is more than just a faculty adviser – he’s a mentor, a teacher and their biggest cheerleader,” said Kristen Wahl, Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition director at Argonne National Laboratory. “Nix gives students the freedom to manage their own swim lane however they choose and works tirelessly to provide innovative ideas and useful feedback to improve both technical and managerial skills. Most notably, it is his close and sustained interactions with his students that has had such an extraordinary impact on their learning experience at WVU and has contributed immensely to placing them on the right path towards successful professional careers.”
Nix frequently makes appearances to unscheduled work sessions to build relationships with every undergraduate student that joins the WVU EcoCAR team. Nix exhibits his trust and confidence by providing every student with the opportunity to make a significant impact on the program.
With the understanding that the spirit of the EcoCAR competition is to not only win, but to network and collaborate with other universities, Nix encourages WVU students to reach out and work with teams from other universities participating in the competition. Often those relationships serve as the icebreaker between WVU students and other participating universities, and as a result it provides invaluable opportunities for the teams to thrive that otherwise would not exist.
Nix also demonstrates a significant interest in diversifying his team, by inviting team members from both engineering and non-engineering majors to join. He has built strong relationships with the administration in the Reed College of Media and the John Chambers of Business and Economics, where faculty and students now see the many benefits of the program’s real-world experience.
“The financial support of the Statler College Dean, MAE and LCSEE departments make participating in AVTCs possible,” Nix said. “Without their support, and that of the university administration, the EcoCAR team would not be the competitive team we have been in recent years.”
The WVU EcoCAR team has been selected to participate in a new four-year competition that will test students’ ability to engineer a next generation battery electric vehicle for the 2023 Cadillac LYRIQ. WVU is among 15 universities selected to engineer vehicle-to-everything connectivity that will implement energy efficient and customer-appealing features in the new vehicle.
The new competition starting in fall 2022 will challenge the WVU team to apply innovative solutions to address equity and electrification challenges in the future of mobility and implement advanced powertrain, charging and thermal systems to use grid electricity intelligently.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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