Mississippi State University is among 12 North American universities participating in the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. This is its fifth consecutive time participating in the nation’s premier automotive engineering competition, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, General Motors and Mathworks. Over the next four years, MSU students will re-engineer a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer to incorporate advanced propulsion systems, automation and vehicle connectivity, all while maintaining improved energy efficiency, safety and consumer acceptability.
The competition is managed by Argonne National Laboratory and provides students with real-world experience solving complex engineering challenges, while also building teamwork and leadership skills that they will take with them into their future careers. MSU’s team is led by faculty advisor Randy Follett, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The team will work on the car at MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.
“This competition is a great opportunity for students in a wide range of majors to get real work experience in the automotive industry,” Follett said. “Students who have participated on our teams previously have gone on to take jobs at the Department of Energy, General Motors, and other related businesses. Not only that, but it is a great opportunity to get to work on a multidisciplinary team, which provides benefits to the students, no matter where they end up working.”
MSU has been competing in the Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions since 2004. Among many honors the student teams have received in the competitions, MSU’s EcoCAR teams earned overall first place finishes in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Fasten Your Seatbelts
The EcoCAR Mobility Challenge will incorporate SAE Level 2 automation, which provides for some automated functions like accelerating and steering, but the driver must remain engaged with the driving task and monitor the environment. The teams will use onboard sensors and wireless communication from the vehicle’s surrounding environment to improve the car’s overall operation.
In addition to providing hands-on experience with the latest automotive technologies for MSU Bagley College of Engineering students, the competition will provide opportunities for communication and business students to participate in projects that give students a multi-disciplinary approach like what they would experience while working in the automotive industry.
General Motors provides each of the 12 competing teams with a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer, as well as vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. MathWorks provides teams with a full suite of software tools, simulation models, training, technical mentoring and operational support. The U.S. Department of Energy and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provide competition management, team evaluation and logistical support. Other sponsors provide hardware, software and training.
Mark Arend has been editor in chief of Site Selection magazine since 2001. Prior to joining the editorial staff in 1997, he worked for 10 years in New York City at Wall Street Computer Review, ABA Banking Journal and Global Investment Technology. Mark graduated from the University of Hartford (Conn.) in 1985 and lives near Atlanta, Georgia.