The team’s finish is even more noteworthy considering the original engine had to be replaced after the first competitive run. The field of 28 included teams from the University of California-Berkeley, University of Michigan, UCLA, Arizona State and, the winner, Penn State, which achieved nearly 1,300 miles per gallon. It was UNH’s second trip to the prestigious competition.
"I'm thrilled we came in tenth," Olenick said. "Despite having major engine issues, we still managed a top-ten run, and I'm very proud of that."
UNH also finished sixth in the design report category.
The car is a lightweight, aerodynamic, three-wheeled vehicle that has a "tadpole" design. The main component is a custom, carbon-fiber composite shell, donated by New Haven’s Vespoli USA. Sponsors played a key role in the development of the car. In addition to Vespoli, the UNH Board of Governors was a substantial supporter, as well as Chapman’s Bicycles, Cannondale, Ashcroft and Covidien.
Olenick and Bennett led a team that included Brittanie Albera '16, Jonathan Attruia '14, Vladimir Auster '15, Eric Brundage '15, David Carassco '15, Chris Dorries '14, John Hamilla '14, Stephen Hegedus ’13, Kevin Henne '14, Victor Limauro '14, Chris Ong '16, Mike Sestito '14, Walter Shuanula '15, Joseph Sieverman '15, Dylan Wagner '16 and Erik Wengenroth '14. Each student spent eight to 12 hours per week working on the car.
"The best thing to take out of this project is learning how to manage a small group of people to complete an engineering task," said Bennett. "Working on large projects such as the supermileage vehicle is the only way to get the 'real world' experience outside of an internship."
Bennett and Olenick plan to stay involved with the project by serving in advisory roles for the team of students that takes over the project in the fall. Bennett said the performance in Michigan gave the team an excellent foundation to develop a car that could finish in the top five in the coming years.
"The goal next year is to complete modifications to the engine to ensure it runs as efficiently as possible," he said.
Sam Daniels, associate professor of mechanical and civil engineering and the team’s faculty advisor, said the project and competitions provide students with a unique learning opportunity.
"I am always surprised by the huge amount of enthusiasm students have for this project," said Daniels. "The fabrication of parts that have to fit into a much larger project is a great experience that is matched only by actually working in the industry on similar projects. The experience gained by shepherding a project from concept to reality requires every bit of knowledge and skill they have gained during their time as students."
This story was originally posted in Summer 2013. See more photos of the car or read a New Haven Register story about the project.