Campus Notebook

NIU’s Supermileage wins 3rd in international contest

The team of engineering students at Northern Illinois University’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology won third place in the international SAE Supermileage competition in June.
The team of engineering students at Northern Illinois University’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology won third place in the international SAE Supermileage competition in June.

The Northern Illinois University’s Supermileage team is on a roll again. The team of engineering students at NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology won third place in the international SAE Supermileage competition in June.

SAE Supermileage is a competition for teams of engineering undergraduate and graduate students. The teams work to build the most fuel-efficient single-person vehicle possible. Typically, teams compete to see which vehicle can travel the farthest on a gallon of gas. This year the competition was held virtually with teams presenting written and verbal presentations due to the pandemic.

“We’re so proud of the Supermileage team, they worked extra hard this year and succeeded in spite of the challenges that the pandemic presented,” CEET Dean Donald Peterson, Ph.D., said in a news release. “The competitive teams like Supermileage are a great example of how we emphasize hands-on experience for our students so that they can apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to the real world.”

NIU’s Supermileage team started in 2008. Each year, the Supermileage team has worked to improve energy efficiency while maintaining or improving safety. This year, NIU’s team of 22 undergraduate students along with team adviser David Schroeder, Ph.D., spent nine months on design development, analysis and fabrication of their primary project. 

“We decided to make a big change by developing our own engine head in-house,” said Supermileage Team President Matthew McCoy. “By March, we finished fabricating every component for the engine head and assembled it but were unable to test it due to COVID-19.”

Instead, the team submitted an extensive 41-page design report on the vehicle and gave their verbal presentation that covered highlights of the report and discussed the team’s structure, recruitment efforts, outreach and training methods. The team’s objective is for its members “to develop into strong engineers who have the engineering prowess to enter industry and contribute meaningfully to their fields,” he said.

This year’s achievement was not the team’s first successful lap around the track. In 2019, the team won top honors in the overall efficiency category for its gasoline-powered vehicle that traveled 1,525 miles on one gallon of gas at the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition at Sonoma Raceway. The team also consistently placed in the top three at SAE for eight of the 11 years in which it has competed, with the team’s highest mileage being 1,888 mpg in 2018.

“Having a virtual competition isn’t optimal, but it was great to have the chance to still showcase what the team has accomplished this past year,” Lauren Bangert, vice president of the Supermileage team and the driver of the vehicle, said in the release.

For more information about the NIU Supermileage team, visit niu.edu/ceet.

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