Students engineer environmentally clean, quiet and fuel-efficient snowmobiles for competition

Iowa State students in Clean Snowmobile work to engineer a fuel-efficient and environmentally clean snowmobile for competition.

Jill Even

Clean Snowmobile is a branch within Iowa State’s Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International Student Chapter. The official SAE international organization hosts a collegiate design series where they challenge students to engineer the most environmentally clean, quiet and fuel-efficient snowmobile.

This week-long competition is the only contest Clean Snowmobile participates in, and it is in different locations every year.

Clean Snowmobile members meet once a week for informal meetings and then host shop times at the Advanced Machinery Systems Laboratory on campus. This is done throughout the week and weekends so students can get hands-on with the improvements. Members can choose how involved they are and which part they want to improve on the snowmobile, such as the engine or exhaust.

The snowmobile is continually tested during the engineering process by the testing team for the aspects of fuel efficiency, environmental cleanliness and sound. The team then records and collects this data to be used in their competition, as it shows the direct results of the improvements made.

Those who attend the competitions are chosen strictly off of who puts the most work time into the club. Work time can vary because members can choose to be as involved as they wish. If there is a specific project a member is working on, they typically gain more work time, whereas members that are not working on a designated project may not put in as much time. Other aspects that are considered are who visited with sponsors, consistently went to meetings and participated in fundraisers.

Ryan Greeley, senior in mechanical engineering, was a project director for Clean Snowmobile last year. In this position, he oversaw the team’s budget, transportation and sponsorships. This allowed him to gain other interdisciplinary skills.

“At the competition, there are all the dynamic events where you are actually riding the snowmobile,” Greeley said. “But then there is a design presentation, which is where you get up in front of all the judges and pitch your snowmobile, basically highlighting all the innovations, which are largely data-driven.”

Robert Petersen, junior in mechanical engineering, is the challenge project director and president for Clean Snowmobile. He got involved after seeing them at Club Fest with no prior snowmobile experience but an interest in mechanics.

“I liked the culture of the snowmobile team,” Petersen said. “We’re one of the smaller teams, and there are a lot more opportunities to get involved […]. When it came to career fair, I was never short talking about experiences I’ve had dealing with people and project management.”

Katie Lyon, senior in mechanical engineering, is a general member of Clean Snowmobile. She said being a part of Clean Snowmobile was helpful when she was searching for an internship. Lyon now has a cooperative with BorgWarner focusing on emissions and thermal systems.

“Since it’s kind of a smaller club and it’s not a giant company where there is a lot of leadership hierarchy in place, you can see all the different aspects in snowmobiles and all the different projects,” Lyon said. “My favorite thing about the club is the versatility and how much you can do and see.”

The funding for the team is from fundraisers and sponsorships with organizations such as Polaris Inc., Arctic Cat, Saylorville Dam Snowmobile Club, Hypersports, Link Engine Management, Caterpillar Inc., Stainless Works, Danfoss and Send Cut Send.