Ecocar 2 Team Video

How was your week?

The past week has been a busy, but exciting week for MSU EcoCAR 2. After making some headway with with mechanical problems we’ve been facing, we compiled a progress report for competition sponsors. As part of the competition, we are required to submit progress reports throughout the year for competition points. With most of our team leadersip out of town, it was exciting to see our team come together to compile these reports while being hundreds of miles apart. Why were they hundreds of miles apart? We’ll get to that shortly.

Welcoming an Honored Guest

Congressman Harper visits with MSU team members.

First, we’d like to give a big thank you to Congressman Gregg Harper for meeting with our team on Friday, April 11. While in town for Super Bulldog Weekend, he made a trip into CAVS to see our car, hear about our progress and show support for the efforts we are making in the EcoCAR 2 competition.

“When we look at what’s important for America, we look at things like commerce, manufacturing or trade issues and how it may impact us in the future…Mississippi State University is certainly setting the standard when it comes to engineering.” –Congressman Gregg Harper

We were able to spend some quality time with him explaining how EcoCAR 2 not only helps explore new opportunities with hybrid vehicles, but also allows us to better the minds of the next generation of engineers. EcoCAR 2 is about more than just a car, it’s about the people who are working together to solve complex problems and build a better future.

Visiting with Congressman Harper was a real treat for our team. We were very encouraged by his enthusiasm, interest and response to our conversation with him.

Watch the news story here:



Team Member Stephen Hayden presents to nearly 500 students.

Being the Honored Guests

Communications Manager Yance Falkner, Stephen Hayden and Kaylie Mitchell spent the early part of Friday in Memphis presenting to almost 500 students of St. George’s Independent School. It is always a joy for our team to reach out to youth and help them understand the impact and importance of EcoCAR 2 and hybrid technologies. The looks of awe when we say we have an estimated 90 MPG are always fun.

After the large presentation, we sat down with an engineering class to have a more personalized talk. We were able to answer questions about how we integrated electical, controls and mechanical teams into one cohesive unit. We were also able to answer some more technical questions about how we make our components communicate and function.

Thanks to St. George’s for a great time.



So why was our team hundreds of miles apart last week?

We had the extreme privilege to be a part of the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) in Dallas, Texas last week. FTF is a conference for embedded engineers. It features a comprehensive array of industry professionals coming together to promote innovation and collaboration.

Learn more about Freescale here:

Electrical Team Leader Hagan Walker presents through live cast to an audience at the Freescale Technology Forum.

Freescale is a competition sponsor responsible for our centerstack project. We have taken control of the radio, air control, gps, and other features with a large touch screen. Rather than have all these controls spread out, they are all centralized in a beautiful, interactive display. It also presents pertinent information like our state of charge and eco-rating. This was all made possible by sponsors like Freescale and Crank Software.

The Mississippi State Malibu was the only car from EcoCAR 2 featured at FTF. Presenting and exhibiting our car to over 2,000 guests was definitely a unique experience. With tech talks, seminars and numerous innovations scattered all around us, we were honored to be a part of such an incredible group of people. Thank you to Freescale and Crank Software for your contributions and support.




MSU and Vector CANtech – Speaking the Language

Sponsorship is a huge part of the EcoCAR 2 competition. Sponsors provide the software, hardware, components and knowledge required to effectively implement new technologies into our vehicles.
Vector CANtech is one such sponsor. The CAN (controller area network) technology developed by Vector has been indispensable to the MSU EcoCAR 2 team. It  allows the team to see, in real time, the messages sent throughout the micro-controllers in the car. These data readings help our team identify and solve any mechanical, control or electrical problems our team may encounter.

A Different Language:
Our car speaks a certain language to communicate commands and controls while operating. Understanding and interpreting this language is something our team would not be able to do without Vector. While our car is running, we are recording and documenting the data from our car’s “conversations.” Using Vector, we can understand this data and use it to identify problems, develop solutions, or simply refine operations.

Irreplaceable Value:
Without the diagnostic tools provided by Vector, our team would spend hours debugging problems that are easily solved through Vector’s CAN software. EcoCAR 2 is all about efficiency. That principle applies heavily to the development portion of the competition. Finding solutions quickly and accurately is an important aspect of our process. Vector makes data reading easy, which is not always an easy thing to do.

Communications Manager Profile: Claire Faccini

Team Hosts Starkville Fire Department


Team member Stephen Hayden shows the Fire Department MSU's Chevy Malibu.

MSU team members had the unique opportunity to host the Starkville Fire Department today. Four firemen, including Fire Chief Rodger Mann, came to CAVS to tour the facility and learn more about EcoCAR 2.

After giving a brief presentation, the team was able to take the firemen to our car and show them around. They were very interested in our vehicle architecture and the necessary safety precautions first responders should take when approaching vehicle accidents involving hybrids.

Our team spent time showing the firemen the precautions we take around the vehicle and how these measures could apply to first responders. They were especially interested in the high voltage systems. Stephen Hayden demonstrated to the firemen how our systems are marked and how other systems may be marked in similar fashion.

The team also took time to talk about the EcoCAR 2 competition with the firemen. We were able to answer all of their questions about the aspects and work involved in competition. They were genuinely interested in what we do and asked very pertinent questions.

We had a great time with the firemen. They are a special group and we were proud to serve them in this small way.


Where Are They Now: Featuring Tom Goddette

Tom Goddette

Tom Goddette recently graduated from Mississippi State University after being involved with Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions (AVTCs) for five years.  He was able to work on the EcoCAR and EcoCAR 2 projects. MSU’s team caught back up with him after his move to Michigan to begin his career at AVL. He offered words of advice and said what he sees in the future for AVTCs

      What was your position on the Mississippi State team?

I didn’t really have a traditional position on the team. I was an undergrad/graduate student in mechanical engineering so I helped physically build the car but I also helped design the battery and work on the electrical systems.At the same time I was one of the engineers that really enjoyed participating in outreach events, so I really tried to go to as many events as I could, helping to promote the team and EcoCAR.

        What was your favorite experience while on the MSU EcoCAR 2 Team?

It is hard to pick one favorite experience. Competition each year is always a great time. Not only do you get to compete with a car that you have been working on for a least a year (sometimes longer), you also get to see all the other teams hard work.

         What did you learn by being a part of the MSU EcoCAR 2 Team?

EcoCAR is a major project, especially since it is a completely student run project. One of the best things that I took away from EcoCAR was the need for planning and preparing before doing anything. There is so much that has to be completed at each stage of EcoCAR and everyone on the team, engineering and non-engineering majors both, have to come together and work if the team is going to do well.

         What is your role at AVL?

I am currently a project engineer in the design group.  I work in multiple CAD packages designing engine components and systems for AVL clients.

Tom speaking to USDA Undersecretary Bennie Thompson's Staffers

          How did EcoCAR 2 help prepare you for your role at AVL?

EcoCAR was a great learning experience that directly correlates to the work that I do now. In EcoCAR we design a hybrid vehicle powertrain from the ground up. We had to worry about the same things that I have to worry about now; space, weight, safety, maintenance, and costs all come into play and have to be considered.

          What advice do you have for new EcoCAR 2 team members?

Don’t waste any time! Just because you are new on the team doesn’t mean that you can’t get things done. There is ALWAYS something that you can be helping with and it doesn’t always require intimate knowledge of your teams EcoCAR or cars in general.

          What do you see in the future for AVTCs?

I really hope to see more advanced vehicle architecture coming out of the next few competitions. The software and hardware that is donated by the sponsors is definitely capable of simulating some advanced stuff and I would really love to see a school come up with something that blows everyone away.

Team Engages Students at Invention Convention

MSU team members traveled to Jackson, MS Friday, October 4th to attend “Invention Convention” at Madison Crossing Elementary School.

Team Member, Trent Workman, Speaking at Invention Convention

MSU’s Communications Manager, Claire Faccini and Controls Group member, Trent Workman, were able to speak to five different fifth grade classes about alternative fuel vehicles, the EcoCAR 2 competition, and MSU’s sustainability efforts. Not only did the team members educate the classes about Year Three of the competition and MSU’s progress, they were able to learn a few things about what fifth grade car buyers would like to see implemented in the future.

The following are some ideas for Year Three from Madison Crossing fifth graders:

“I would want a soda, coffee, and water machine, and a good looking car.”

“A bubble jet pack to have bubbles in the car.”

“A voice that tells jokes to you while you’re driving.”

Some students really thought outside of the box and used their brain to be creative and come up with resourceful ideas that could really appeal to the next few generations of car buyers. Some ideas dealt with safety features but a few stood out. When asked what they would like to see in MSU’s EcoCAR 2 vehicle, students answered:

“A playground.”

“A zoo.”

Madison Crossing Students Design Their Own EcoCAR 2

“A tornado shelter.”

The fifth graders at Madison Crossing put a lot of thought into how to refine the team’s vehicle and make it acceptable for all consumers. “Invention Convention” focuses on new and different ways to make things work while being creative at the same time. The kids were engaged and excited that they could help college student make something better through their inventive ideas and the team was glad to hear from a generation that will one day be in their shoes, working with sustainability. And lastly, the team’s favorite response of the day was:

“So, I’m 11…can I join the MSU EcoCAR 2 team?!”

Year Three Workshop: Refining Skills

The MSU EcoCAR 2 team arrived in Natick, MA Wednesday, September 25th for the Year Three Fall Workshop. Nine team members learned about the rules and expectations of the competition as well as received hands-on training.

Students participated in technical instruction sessions as well as hands-on hardware training from competition sponsor, Freescale Semiconductor. Team members learned the basics of controls for the vehicle and project management, as well as more advanced tasks from other competition sponsors such as Siemens, dSPACE, AVL, and General Motors.

The different training sessions offered a variety of information to all of the teams and the MSU business manager, Chris Hoop, found the varying perspectives to be very helpful.

“As a new team member, I was able to really immerse myself in the program at the workshop. The project management training by one of our sponsors, EarthPM, gave me the tools to effectively navigate through Year Three,” he said.

The members were also invited to attend a sponsor social in the The Verve-Crowne Plaza where they were able to meet competition sponsors to discuss potential employment or to ask for advice on the competition. In the past, these socials have always been an integral part of the competition and are extremely helpful in providing students a gateway into the automotive industry.

The team would like to especially thank MathWorks for hosting all 15 teams at their Natick campus and for providing them this excellent opportunity for learning and growing as a team.


Photo credits: EcoCAR 2 Flickr

Year Three: Optimizing Attitudes

Year Three is officially underway for the 137 Bulldawgs that attended the 2013 Fall Kick-Off meeting for the Mississippi State EcoCAR 2 Team. Students from 15 different majors expressed their interest in joining the team in their goal to refine and optimize the 2013 Chevy Malibu, donated by General Motors in Year Two. The rapid growth in student involvement this semester is promising to the team, who is already busy preparing for the final competition of EcoCAR 2: Plugging In To the Future.

This summer was relatively calm after placing fifth in the Year Two competition that took place in May. However, things are swiftly gearing up again for the team. Tours, organization fairs, new student events, meetings, school visits, and of course, refining the EcoCAR 2 are all on the to-do list for the immediate months. Fortunate for MSU, there are now over 100 students to aid in this process.

Members of the team will be traveling to Natick, MA for the EcoCAR 2 Fall Workshop on September 25th, hosted by the MathWorks. The students will receive one-on-one training from sponsors and professionals on how to use the different types of software that will be required by the competition. The business and communication students will also receive special help on how to accomplish the tasks set before them by the competition organizers.

The final year of the EcoCAR 2 competition may prove to be the most tedious and difficult year yet. However, with the support of the Mississippi State students and the Starkville community, they are ready to wear maroon proudly and represent the best cowbell-ringing school in the world, through doing what they do best: getting down to business.

To keep up with MSU’s EcoCAR 2 team throughout the Year Three refinement process, follow them on Twitter: @MSStateEcoCAR2 or “like” them on Facebook: Mississippi State EcoCAR 2 Team. 

Team Excels in Final Competition Regardless of Setbacks

The MSU EcoCAR 2 Team recently returned from Year 2 Final Competition where they were fortunate to be awarded with some of the highest honors that the program has to offer. After one week of testing their vehicle at General Motor’s Desert Proving Grounds in Yuma, AZ and one week of presenting different aspects of the process of building the hybrid, the team walked away with the 5th place trophy. Claire Faccini, the Communications Manager, spoke on the subject.

“Coming in to the competition as the Year One champions put a lot of pressure on the team, in a good way. We started out in second place but because of a major mechanical problem, we were only able to get fifth. However, we considered it a huge success,” Claire said.

The unexpected error occurred in the custom hybrid powertrain on the third to last day, was fixed on the second day, and the car was running events on the last day. This in itself was an incredible feat to pull off because of the team’s dedication. The team completely dropped the powertrain and reassembled it (basically rebuilt the entire front of the car) within 20 hours.

“It was amazing to see and other teams even told us that we ‘inspired’ them to overcome challenges that they faced. To our team, that is where we won. There was no time to feel sorry for ourselves or be disappointed. We knew what we had to do and got it done.”

The Mississippi State University Provost, Dr. Jerry Gilbert, and the Vice President of Research, Dr. David Shaw, were able to attend a “Ride & Drive” in San Diego. They were able to take the vehicle for a spin and get to know the team and see first hand that regardless of the set-backs, these bulldawgs were determined to succeed.

Despite the challenges presented to the team in the Arizona desert, they persevered and focused on perfecting their presentations for the second leg of the trip. The MSU team took home many top honors including:


            Best Vehicle Design Review Presentation

            Best Controls Presentation

            Best Communications Presentation

            3rd Place Overall Business Program

            3rd Place MathWorks Modeling Award

            1st Place dSPACE Video Award


“Garnering the fifth place position seemed nearly impossible when we dropped our powertrain in Yuma. However, we really showed our Bulldawg spirit in San Diego and we are proud of how far we were able to come.”

Where Are They Now: Challenge X and EcoCAR Alum Michael Barr

Michael Barr, a Mississippi State Challenge X and EcoCAR alum, is now a Systems Engineer at AVL Powertrain Engineering. He got involved in 2007 during Year 3 of Challenge X and continued through 2011 with Year 3 of EcoCAR. Michael was involved with MSU’s mechanical group and served as Mechanical/Powertrain Group Leader during his time with the team.

While on the team, he developed his passions and that is when he realized what he wanted to do with his life career-wise.

“After I got involved with Challenge X I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Michael said. He now serves different roles within his profession such as functional integration of mechanical, electrical, thermodynamic, and energy storage systems within hybrid and electrical vehicle applications. Michael primarily works on the design, build, and testing of HV batteries, but is also doing controls work on vehicle applications.


Michael’s experiences with AVTCs are the reason that he has a successful career that he has a passion for. The competitions sparked his interest and evolved into something that he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing.

“I love cars, and I wanted to work in the automotive industry.  I knew the AVTC program could get me this and that’s why I got involved.  I loved the entire experience (except maybe a few of the overnighters) and what I do now at AVL is very similar to everything that I did in Challenge X and EcoCAR.  I love what I do and wouldn’t change anything.”

Michael learned a lot from the experiences that the AVTCs brought him but one piece of advice that still sticks with him to this day is to have a good work ethic.

“If you work hard and have dedication you can do anything. Get involved, work hard, do your best, and WIN!”

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