Sled ready

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP – The Society of Automotive Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge kicked off Tuesday with a 100-mile Endurance Run, but the challenge will continue to test students’ endurance and skills across a variety of engineering metrics all week.

Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center, located near the Houghton County Memorial Airport, is hosting the 14th annual challenge for the 11th time (first three near Yellowstone National Park).

“The purpose of the snowmobile challenge is to engineer a cleaner and quieter sled, starting with a sled you can buy from the manufacturer,” described KRC/event director Jay Meldrum.

In all, 21 teams will be competing in both internal combustion and electric categories, aiming to reduce emissions and noise, and increase fuel efficiency, while maintaining the fun for snowmobilers.

“Snowmobiles have to be fun to ride, so we measure performance characteristics, handling, acceleration in a straight line, things like that,” Meldrum said. “… It’s a marathon, they have to do well in all the events, they can’t just do well in one or two events. They need to pass endurance, pass emissions and noise, and it’s how well do you write, how well do you present.”

In the past, the challenge has been the catalyst for several snowmobile production improvements. For example, when Idaho won the CSC in 2007 with what’s now called 600 direct-injected technology, it became part of 2008 snowmobile productions.

“That’s kind of a cool success story, but the real success is we’ve educated thousands of students on the technologies of clean and quiet,” Meldrum said. “We continue to see students come back from their new job saying I want to be involved and I want to help run this competition.”

In all it takes about $100,000 cash to put on the challenge each year, and another $100,000 in in-kind contributions such as food and hotel rooms for teams that come from Canada, Alaska, North Dakota, Maine and other distant locations.

Clarkson University from Potsdam, N.Y., is the two-time defending champion in the internal combustion category, and the team’s pursuit of a three-peat got off to a good start by being one of six teams to complete the Endurance Run.

The event involved 40 miles on a track at the KRC, followed by a run to Copper Harbor. Six of the 10 teams made it to Copper Harbor, which is a pretty good success rate, according to Meldrum.

Michigan Tech, Kettering University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Idaho and the cole de Technologie Suprieure from Montreal also completed the Endurance Run.

McGill University won a zero-emissions category range test Tuesday, with University of Alaska Fairbanks taking second in the two-team event.

Electric sleds are used for testing at the North and South Poles, where any pollutants would skew hydrocarbon emission results. The winner of this year’s National Science Foundation-sponsored zero-emissions competition will actually be able to go to Summit Station.

The winner in the internal combustion category, which will be announced Saturday at an awards presentation, will receive $1,000, a trophy and the all-important bragging rights for the year.

From 6 to 8 p.m. today the teams will have the sleds on display at the Copper Country Mall. Saturday will include a Polaris Acceleration Event at 10 a.m. followed by a Polaris Handling Event at 11. Zero-emissions entries will participate in the Acceleration and Load Test at 11 a.m., with the KRC-hosted events open to the public.

A full schedule of events and additional CSC info can be found at