Ecocar 2 Team Video

Year 3 Final Competition is underway

We have arrived in Milford, Michigan to begin final competition at General Motor’s Milford Proving Grounds. Our car left Starkville on Monday, May 26, and we were reunited with it today.

The team just before leaving Starkville.

When the car arrived earlier this week, some of GM’s technicians looked the car over and gave it a safety inspection. When we arrived today, those technicians went over apparent and potential problems we will need to correct. We weren’t allowed to work on the car today, so we will start tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. sharp (keep in mind we are in the Eastern Time Zone).

We receive competition points by performing in dynamic events that test our car’s drivability, acceleration, emissions, energy consumption, consumer acceptability and many other categories. Before we can participate in these events, our team must pass the safety inspections. For MSU, it is just a few minor things we need to work on: tightening a mount to reduce sway, a little leak here and there, and things like that. We should be ready to participate in events by Tuesday afternoon.

“We are really excited to get started working on the car tomorrow,” Team Leader Lee Sargent said. “We’ve got a few things to work on, but we have a very capable group. I’m confident we will move past safety tech quickly.”

 We will finish off today with a welcoming ceremony. Each of the teams made a skit video for tonight. We will all relax, share a few laughs, and enjoy a few last moments of peace before we hit the ground running tomorrow.

It’s going to be a great week. Our team is energetic, excited, and hopeful. Keep an eye on our Twitter

and Facebook pages. We will keep you up-to-date on how competition is going.

Refinement is on the Map


Leading up to Year Three Final Competition, the MSU EcoCAR 2 team has spent large amounts of time refining its controls strategy. The controls team works with their MicroAutoBox and RapidPro to interface with the components of MSU’s vehicle.

The controls team is responsible for making sure the car runs correctly: ensuring communication between necessary components, implementing safety features, and maximizing performance to meet the team’s vehicle technical specifications.

MSU’s controls group, led by Ryan Nazaretian, has made significant progress this spring. Its focus has been on a few key performance areas.

“This being my first semester working on controls, I have encountered a steep learning curve learning nearly every aspect of my responsibilities. From the help of other students on the team as well as help from the previous controls lead, Jonathan Moore, I have been able to complete an extraordinary amount of work efficiently to get the vehicle ready for competition.” ­–Ryan Nazaretian

Ryan Nazaretian (left) and Ryan McGee (right) work on controls simulations in a lab to refine MSU's controls strategy.

For the car to run smoother, the MSU controls team has implemented a custom shift map to make the vehicle run more efficiently. With its 6-speed automatic transmission, the shifting is controlled by the supervisory controller in the car rather than the transmission control module.

The shift map is dependent on the accelerator pedal position and the vehicle speed. The MSU controls team worked on finding the optimal combination of these three to cut seconds off of its 0-60 time while improving the efficiency of the vehicle. The team had been diagnosing its shifting problem for some time. It was traced back to the chain drive. MSU’s car has a silent chain drive that connects the engine and electric motor to the transmission. This allows the car to run in gas-only, electric-only, or gas and electric simultaneously. However, the technical specifications of the chain drive restrict it from exceeding 6,000 RPMs. The engine and electric motor can both exceed that number easily. While the transmission control module was asking for a higher input speed, the controls restrictions for the chain drive housing refused to allow it. To put it simply, the car was confusing itself. This was causing the vehicle to get stuck in second gear at wide open throttle. By running the car through multiple tests and analyzing the results, MSU was able to identify this problem and work out a solution.

Solving this problem has helped MSU shave valuable seconds off its 0-60 time and move towards a better car. The engineers on this project have gained valuable experience in diagnosing and devising solutions to complex problems.

Inner beauty.


MSU's centerstack home display screen.

Year Three of EcoCAR 2 focuses on optimization: making a car conceptually showroom ready. That means adding amenities and features that would make a car desirable to a consumer market. Teams focus not only on the performance and safety of the car, but making the driver’s seat appealing as well. The challenge is making a car that consumers would enjoy driving.

As part of this challenge, each team had to implement an interactive centerstack into their vehicle. This meant putting a complicated system into a vehicle essentially from scratch. It opened up intriguing possibilities while also presenting a unique challenge. Using embedded software tools donated by Freescale Semiconductor, teams had a world of possibilities to work with.

The MSU team worked with a senior computer science class to develop its centerstack project. The team separated into groups and worked in parallel to save time and produce a more appealing product.

The team faced many challenges, but in the end its struggles were well worth it. The MSU centerstack now displays GPS, air control, radio, MP3, and major systems status on a 13.3 inch touch-screen. It basically acts like a large tablet in the car.








Stats page from the iOS companion app.

Along with its centerstack, the centerstack team also developed companion applications for smartphones that coincide with the information on the centerstack. An app was developed for Android and Apple users. This required research into Android and iOS user interface and the standards for each. Within each app, similar features were incorporated. Each app allows users the ability to lock and unlock the doors. This is especially useful for those who lock their keys in their car, but never forget their phone. The smartphone apps also have unique user statistics. It can give an eco-rating, average distance traveled, average fuel economy and other useful insights. Each of these features were tested with hypothetical data to ensure functionality within the app. All features are completely operational and reliable.




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

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