Students Shine at Shell Eco-marathon Competition

May 15, 2019

Imagine being so passionate about a project that you set up a hammock in your workroom because sleeping at home seems too time-consuming. That's the story of a few Bradley University students who have dedicated the past eight months to develop and troubleshoot a moving vehicle to compete against other students across the globe.

Nicholas Turner, Bryce Bothast, and team leader Michael Dovel were the builders who worked hand in hand with their faculty advisor, Dr. Jeries Abou-Hanna. The driver was Megan Voss. Together, they put forth excellent results at the annual Shell Eco-marathon Competition held in Sonoma, California. Out of more than 30 competing teams, ranging from the US, Canada, Central America, South America and Brazil, the 2019 Bradley University Shell Eco Car team placed 11th, achieving an official score of 816 mpg. This performance was 3.5 times better than Bradley's team five short years ago. Dr. Abou-Hanna speaks about how his students got to this point.

"They start [the school year] excited about being affiliated with a car project. They want to conquer the world with their new ideas to improve on previous years' designs. Quickly, they get overwhelmed by realizing how difficult and multi-dimensional the task is. Then, they are humbled by the problems they face as they move from paper design and virtual reality to fabrication, assembly, tuning, meeting competition rules, and troubleshooting odds and ends."

Dr. Abou-Hanna couldn't help but notice that the Bradley students' car was one of the very few vehicles that didn't break down during the trial or competing runs. It also passed inspection very quickly. Most of the other teams had to spend time modifying, repairing and replacing parts, while Bradley was ready at the start every time.

The Shell Eco Car team is just one of the competing teams from Bradley's relatively new Motor Sports Club. Overall, the program has proven to be quite popular, as it engages students of all years. Students enrolled in the senior capstone design course make sure to provide professional engineering services to the club to help create a successful design. All teams typically work 20 to 40 hours a week outside of class until completion, some members even staying in Peoria over spring break.

"I get great satisfaction seeing how much my students grow and mature through this humbling 8-month experience. They learn how to respect and deal with each other for a common cause, even during the worst of times and under a lot of pressure. My reward comes from them realizing their engineering education has paid off by helping them resolve difficult engineering issues, and because of that education, they were able to build a car they can be proud of."

Picture: (L to R) Megan Voss, Bryce Bothast, Jared Benckendorf, Nicholas Turner, Michael Dovel