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5/24/12 - MSU team earns first place finish in EcoCAR 2 competition

Mississippi State's alternative vehicle design team returns to the Magnolia State as champions after being named year-one winners of EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future.

The results were announced during a ceremony in Los Angeles, Calif., following six days of judged competitions. In addition to the overall first place finish, the team brings home $13,000 in prize money and five individual category awards: Best Facilities Inspection, Best Final Technical Report, Best Project Initiation Approval Presentation, Best Trade Show Evaluation, and Best Controls Presentation. Team member Rachel Wheeler won the Women in Engineering Award.

Mississippi State's team earned 952 of a possible 1,000 competition points--32 points ahead of second place finisher Ohio State University. The University of Waterloo finished third with 859 points.

"I spoke to our team members in Los Angeles and congratulated them on behalf of the entire Mississippi State family," MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. "This national recognition speaks volumes about the capabilities of our students and the quality of the instruction in our Bagley College of Engineering. We are excited for our team and for the message this top finish sends about the role Mississippi State University is playing in developing fuel-efficient, clean-energy technology for the vehicles of the future."

A three-year competition, EcoCAR 2 asks 15 competitively selected collegiate teams to re-engineer a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu to improve its efficiency while maintaining safety and consumer appeal. The first year of competition focuses on computer-based modeling and simulations, which test the teams' design ideas.

Mississippi State's design features a series-parallel vehicle architecture. This type of system allows the vehicle's engine to power the wheels in a traditional sense, or to generate battery power for all-electric operation.

"Series-parallel architecture is more efficient than traditional plug-in hybrids," explained Matthew Doude, the team leader. "It will be more challenging to implement than our past designs, but we enjoy being challenged."

Doude said simulations indicate that the team's design will earn 81.4 mpg with a 57-mile all-electric range.

The team will receive its GM-donated Malibu this summer and will spend the next year implementing its designs. During the third and final year of the competition, the team will refine its vehicle to meet consumer expectations and present it as a production-ready prototype.

"We are all looking forward to getting the vehicle, seeing how it performs and taking it apart," said Tom Goddette, a mechanical engineering major from Pensacola, Fla. "The competition is close, so we can't rest on this year's success. We've got to work hard to implement our ideas and I can't wait to see how it compares to the other schools'."

The team entered this week's year-ending competition in fourth place behind the eventual second, third and forth place teams from Ohio State, Waterloo, and Virginia Tech--but they didn't let that worry them.

"When we arrived in L.A., we went right to work setting up our tradeshow and practicing our presentations," Goddette said.

Team business leader Lee Pratt added, "There really wasn't any time to rest. Once one person finished a presentation, they started helping everyone else with theirs. It was great teamwork and it was absolutely the best way to finish my three years on the team."

EcoCAR 2 is the latest in a series of automotive vehicle technology competitions sponsored by General Motors and the Department of Energy. The Mississippi State team was formed eight years ago for ChallengeX, a four-year competition that MSU ultimately won. Most recently the team re-engineered an SUV that earns more than 118 mpg and won multiple awards during the three-year EcoCAR competition.

This year's Mississippi State team consists of more than 80 undergraduate and graduate students from 16 different majors. It is led by faculty adviser Marshall Molen. For more information about Mississippi State's EcoCAR 2 team, visit its website at, follow MSStateEcoCAR2 on Twitter or "like" Mississippi State EcoCAR 2 Team on Facebook.

More information about the EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future competition can be found at

Team leaders and individual award winners include (by hometown):

CLEVELAND--Women in Engineering award recipient Rachel Wheeler, a doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering

FORT WORTH, Texas--Electrical and controls group leader Jonathan Moore, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering

GULFPORT--Team outreach coordinator Kimberly Torries, a graduate student in business administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Mechanical group leader Josh Hoop, a graduate student in mechanical engineering

STARKVILLE--Team business leader Lee Pratt, a graduate student in business administration, and team leader Matthew Doude, a graduate student in mechanical engineering

A complete list of MSU's 2012 EcoCAR 2 awards:

1st place overall

Best Media Relations Program

Best Overall Public Outreach Program

Best Final Technical Report

Best Facility Inspection (CAVS)

Best Trade Show Evaluation

Best Project Initiation Approval Presentation

Best Controls Presentation

2nd place Business Program

2nd place Electrical Presentation

2nd place Final HIL Evaluation

2nd place dSPACE Award

2nd place A123 Design Report

3rd place Design Report

Women in Engineering Award

Susan Lassetter | Bagley College of Engineering

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