Category: Year One Posts

The Year One Home Stretch

In this year’s EcoCAR2 competition, roughly half of the 1,000 total points are based on material submitted before the actual competition week.  There are progress updates, design reviews, and other milestones throughout the course of the year.  Some are worth 3 points, and some are worth 100 points.  To maintain a high total score, our team has to approach each one with the same level of effort; a great total score is made up of a bunch of great individual scores.

As the weeks pass by, though, and deliverables are marked off, our team’s Year 1 “to-do” list grows shorter and shorter.  Design reviews, facilities inspections, outreach reports, and almost 400 pages of engineering design:  done.  There is only one remaining technical report due this year: a 20-page summary of all our engineering and project management efforts.  We also have due our final outreach report, which will summarize all of the outreach, PR, education, and media activities of our outreach team.  We are excited to also be producing a video highlighting one of our team’s sponsors:  Snap-on Tools.

These remaining activities will all take place, along with final exams, over the next month or so.  Of course, that still leaves the OTHER half of the competition points, which ride on a week-long frenzy of technical and outreach presentations:  EcoCAR2 Year 1 Competition in Los Angeles, CA!  The team will give eleven presentations in four days, to some of the highest executives and brightest stars of the automotive industry.  These judges will then determine how effectively the team engineered their redesigned hybrid vehicle, as well as how effectively we presented those hundreds of pages of engineering and dozens of outreach events within a few 25-minutes presentations.

As our team gathered this week to discuss what we needed to accomplish and how to compose the best presentations, we talked about how, at that very same moment or in similar gatherings around the country this week, fourteen other teams were having the exact same discussion.  In EcoCAR2, everyone puts their best foot forward; no matter what, you are guaranteed to take the “best shot” of fourteen of the other top engineering schools in the U.S. and Canada.  Our team is up to the challenge.  Bring on LA.

Left Brain vs. Right Brain

Left vs Right Brain

Most people somehow feel that they are inherently more (or less) artistic than they are analytical and then claim to be either left-brain thinkers or right-brain thinkers. For EcoCAR 2, as well as in most life activities, you need to use both.

Maybe both sides need to be used at once by one person, or maybe it is just necessary for different sets of people to specialize in using one side or the other. In any case, you need the collaboration of either both sides of the brain or both sets of people who think on one side or the other. EcoCAR 2 not only teaches this concept, it fully integrates it – and the positive resulting effects are too enumerable to be counted.

Our entire year 3 experience is one that challenges us not only to design a vehicle that looks nice, but functions well. It has been said many times before that to be successful at what you’re doing, you must be willing to get your hands dirty. Few things in life allow us to just get by with the minimum, and EcoCAR is no different. We cannot merely come up with great designs, but also be able to follow up and fully implement those designs to create a beautifully engineered hybrid in the end.

If you think you have what it takes to get in the garage, use your WHOLE brain, and get your hands dirty, you may want to e-mail the MSU team at to join in the action.

MSU Team Highlight: Tanner Powell

Team members were asked what impact EcoCAR 2, as well as past AVTCs, have had on their life and education. One team member, Tanner Powell, shares his viewpoint in MSU’s latest blog post:

“As a Junior in Mechanical Engineering, it was only natural that I would choose my extracurricular activities accordingly by joining the EcoCAR team. Now, I am a 2-year member of the Mechanical Group for Mississippi State’s team and I am both proud and honored to be a part of the current EcoCAR 2 competition.

Participating in EcoCAR 2 has been the greatest learning experience of my life. I have always been interested in cars, but I have never had the opportunity to really work on one, let alone help build one. Thanks to EcoCAR last year I had the privilege of working under the students with far more experience than what I had at the time. Now that EcoCAR 2 has rolled around, I have the chance to share the knowledge I have gained with new members and guide them in the same manner I was two years ago. I want to thank GM and all of our sponsors for making this possible for my teammates and me – it’s truly a one of a kind experience that has exposed all of us to how businesses in the automotive industry really operate.” — Tanner Powell, Mechanical Team Member

For more information on other team members visit out About the Team page now!

Team Mentor Visits MSU!

Last week we  had a great time visiting with our GM mentor, Sarah Vano. We gave Sarah no time to rest after her flight south, as we began her visit with a quick dinner at the Center for Advanced Vehicular (CAVS) followed by a two-hour brainstorming session to discuss ideas related to improving vehicle efficiency. We covered mechanical and controls concepts, and Sarah provided some great insight that helped to focus our work for the rest of the semester. After a long day’s work on Thursday, team members showed Sarah Starkville’s historic Cotton District, and left her with a gift that officially welcomes her into the Bulldog family.


EcoCAR2 from a Freshman Perspective

From a freshman’s point of view, joining a large EcoCAR 2 Team, such as Mississippi State’s, has the potential to be very intimidating. However, with helpful team members and grad students, working with the advanced programs and concepts of EcoCAR 2 is an enjoyable challenge.  When my first semester at Mississippi State began, I had a significant amount of CAD experience, but was unfamiliar with implementing it into real-world designs and constraints. Since joining EcoCAR, I have assisted with CAD work on each report and now have a solid understanding of all of the subsystems of the vehicle. In addition to the invaluable experience I’ve gained, I have also been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with the team to Detroit, MI and Austin, TX for year one workshops. The specialized training that I have received through these events has significantly increased my knowledge of CAD.  These travel opportunities have also allowed me to network with potential employers and secure a summer intern position with a platinum sponsor of EcoCAR 2. I am proof that even for the youngest members; EcoCAR 2 is a fun and rewarding learning experience that offers a variety of benefits and unmatched hands on experience.

Working Together to Bridge the Gap

The gap between technical and non-technical ways of thinking is usually fairly substantial. The subject-matter and thought processes are so drastically different from one another that sometimes it doesn’t seem necessary to even try to bridge that gap.

The EcoCAR 2 program gives students and professionals (technical and non-technical) the ability to think in terms of both. This gives EcoCAR students the skills and mindset that many industries and organizations are  looking for. Organizational leaders  seek  individuals with the ability to proactively collaborate to fix  problems. EcoCAR 2 is the epitome of cross-discipline collaboration. Students; faculty; and professional sponsors come from different sides of industry and yet all work seamlessly together to achieve a sole purpose – creating vehicles that are more sustainable and consumer oriented for a society that is faced with an impending energy crisis. This concept of training students to think and work collaboratively is not only part of the solution to the automotive or energy markets, but it could also be part of the answer for larger scale societal issues.

Society and the world we live in is long overdue for an across the board “meeting of the minds” – something that the AVTC program has been putting into action for 23 years now.

EcoCAR 2 Winter Workshop

MSU EcoCAR 2 team recently returned from Winter Workshop in Austin, TX! The workshop was co-sponsored by Freescale and dSPACE, Inc. and was the first workshop of EcoCAR 2 that included judged presentations and, along with those, an opportunity for teams to begin earning points. Presentations included Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL), Business Plan Update, and their Youth Education presentations. Team members Matt Doude, Kim Torries, Lee Pratt, Blake Brown, and Jon Moore represented the team in these presentations.

Throughout the workshop, key competition level sponsors offered training sessions for the teams. Sponsors such as General Motors, A123 Systems, CD-adapco, Siemens, Vector, and AVL Powertrain Engineering helped students wrap their head around the best practices in implementing their specific hardware and software.

Students were also invited to a Sponsor Social at the historical Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin. Several sponsors expressed interest in MSU students for future internships, co-ops, and even career opportunities. These socials have been extremely helpful in allowing sponsors the opportunity to get better acquainted with the innovative minds that make up these EcoCAR 2 teams. The workshop was extremely eventful and provided invaluable knowledge and experiences for MSU team members that attended!

Climbing the HIL!

The MSU control’s team has been working to set up their hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulator given to them by dSPACE. Setting up the HIL simulator is tedious, but worth it to provide a platform to run “real-time” experiments. This is important because of the compressed time frame the team is given to develop a safe and reliable controls strategy for the vehicle. A few obvious challenges are testing hardware components to gather data in order to make an accurate model and creating the wiring harness so the team can directly connect the actual vehicle’s controller up to the HIL simulator. This allows MSU to develop useful tests to challenge the team’s vehicle controller in an effective manner. MSU’s HIL was recently judged at EcoCAR 2 Winter Workshop in Austin, TX. The team is very proud of the particular group that has been working toward this accomplishment. They work extremely hard to ensure the EcoCAR team is competitive in the competition and developing a safe fuel-efficient vehicle.

Ecocar 2 Team Video

A Winning Effort Begins with Preparation

A123 Systems Battery Modules

The Mississippi State EcoCAR 2’s mechanical team has been busy working on the design for the high voltage battery box that will house our A123 battery modules. The battery pack is one of the most important aspects of the vehicle and can be one of the most daunting tasks because of the shear amount of work to be done. Designing the battery pack is not a simple or easy task, but the EcoCAR 2 competition and MSU have provided us with all the software we need. Not only are we be doing extensive CAD work on the pack but also computation fluid dynamics (CFD) is being used to help design the cooling aspects of the pack. There is a lot of work to be done, but the more time that is spent now in the design phase will translate to less time that will be spent building and working on the pack in the future.

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