MSOE students think "super mileage," design vehicle for competition

MILWAUKEE -- With gas prices near $4 a gallon, many are thinking of ways to improve their vehicle's mileage, or may even be considering upgrading to a hybrid vehicle. For some students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, they're thinking "super mileage" as they prepare for an international competition.

"Maybe 2,000 (miles-per gallon)?" MSOE student Charlie Scanlon said. "It's a high-number, but when you really get down to the engineering of it, you can push that limit pretty far.

Scanlon and a group of 30 other students say they're prepared to push, as they continue to prepare for the "Shell Eco-Marathon Americas 2012." Their challenge involves designing and building a vehicle which travels the farthest, and uses the least amount of energy. The competition's record is 2,565 miles-per-gallon.

"You really get to learn a lot about the vehicle and about the science and engineering involved with a project like this," explains Supermileage team chairwoman, Meghan Krause. Krause says when she was still in high school, she got interested in what is now an annual extra-curricular project at MSOE.

"We're using computer programs, and the stuff that we learned in-class and putting that right into the vehicle, so it's actually exciting to be able to tell people about our car and how we integrated the two together," Krause said.

The project helps build friendships, and helps students develop both life, and technical skills, and then - according to the team's faculty advisor, Dr. Chris Damm, there's the bigger picture. "They're developing technology that will ultimately inform the design of fuel-efficient vehicles, which would have a positive impact on the planet, as well as the economy," Damm said.

The vehicle will travel an estimated top speed of 30 miles-per-hour and the students estimate the cost to build such a vehicle would total more than $40,000. The competition is set for the end of March in Houston, Texas.