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A Quieter, Cleaner Snowmobile?

POTSDAM, N.Y. - A team of Clarkson University students will compete against 12 U.S. and Canadian university teams in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Clean Snowmobile Challenge next March in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is an intercollegiate competition that requires student engineering teams to design a snowmobile with reduced emissions and noise characteristics that equals or improves upon the performance of current snowmobiles.  It gives students the opportunity to work on a team-oriented project and helps facilitate a solution to the controversy surrounding snowmobile use in environmentally sensitive areas.

That controversy has become heated recently. In April 2000, the National Park Service banned snowmobiles from nearly all national parks, recreation areas and monuments.  Environmental organizations pushed for the ban, citing the negative effects of the noise and pollution generated by snowmobiles.  Snowmobile user organizations, however, counter that the vehicles are an effective means of access to public lands.

The two-stroke engine used in snowmobiles typically burns only two-thirds of its fuel, emitting the rest with exhaust.  The EPA estimates that snowmobiles and ATVs produce 1.1 million tons of hydrocarbons per year – 15 percent of the total emitted by all mobile sources.

The problem isn’t going to go away.  With more than 2.5 million snowmobiles in the U.S., the solution will likely have to be a cleaner, quieter snowmobile – perhaps one of the ones designed in this year’s competition.

Engineering design competitions such as the Clean Snowmobile Challenge give students the chance to tackle real-life problems they care about.  When the Clarkson University students take their snowmobile to Jackson Hole in March, they will have to demonstrate its capabilities.  Events scheduled to take place during the challenge include emissions testing, acceleration, hill climbing, cold start testing, noise measurement, fuel economy/range and oral/written design.

"The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a perfect addition to Clarkson University’s 13 other SPEED teams,” says Tina C. Yuille, director of Clarkson’s Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design (SPEED) Program.  “It combines engineering design, experiential learning, and teamwork with the love of the great outdoors – a natural fit for the North Country.”

Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Professor Ronald LaFleur will advise the Snowmobile Challenge Team.  Seniors Jason M. Serra of Angola, N.Y., and Randy K. Smith of Nichols, N.Y., are the student leaders of the team.  Both are majoring in mechanical engineering.

Clarkson, a first-time entry, will compete against the defending champion, the State University of New York University at Buffalo, as well as the Colorado School of Mines; Colorado State University; Kettering University (Flint, Mich.); Michigan Technological University; Minnesota State University; University of Alaska - Fairbanks; University of Alberta; University of Idaho; University of Waterloo (Ont.); host University of Wyoming and Western Washington University.

Clarkson University’s SPEED Program promotes project-based learning experiences by providing engineering design opportunities for Clarkson students through 14 multidisciplinary competitions, including FIRST Robotics, Formula SAE Racing, and Environmental Design.

SPEED receives key funding support from companies such as Corning, General Electric, Alcoa, Eastman Kodak, Goodyear and Nestlé. 

For more information on the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge 2001, visit

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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