From hot ride to hybrid

ASU Polytechnic engineers to rebuild Camaro for EcoCAR competition


A 2016 Camaro drives away.

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Update: See below for photos from Thursday's unveiling.

What happens to a brand-new sports car when you give it to engineering students?

They tear it apart and make it better.

The public is welcome at Arizona State University’s Thursday unveiling of a 2016 Camaro donated by General Motors for a national competition to develop it into a hybrid.

The EcoCAR 3 competition aims at developing the skills of the next generation of automotive engineers training across both engineering and business.

“The big thing is to get the upcoming automotive engineering students on the right track to developing more environmentally friendly vehicles,” said Laurie Ralston, communications faculty adviser on the team and a lecturer in the Graphic Information Technology program, part of the Polytechnic School in the Ira Fulton Schools of Engineering, on the ASU Polytechnic campus.

“GM likes the idea of the possibility of having a genius in the mix that will come up with something.”

The four-year competition between 16 universities is in its second year.

“The past year was more about what we were going to do when we got the car,” said Briana Del Bianco, team communications manager and a senior pursuing a bachelor’s in digital culture with a concentration in technological entrepreneurship.

The team’s 45 students worked on training and research on the car, and chose a powertrain. They decided to go with a parallel hybrid, which will run on electricity from batteries as well as ethanol fuel.

“We’re putting all new components, all new battery packs in the car,” Del Bianco said. “The outside will look the same, but the inside will be completely different.”

Photos from Thursday's unveiling; story continues after gallery.

The car on view at Thursday’s event won’t be intact for long. It needs to be ready for testing at GM’s Yuma Proving Ground.

“We actually have to have a running vehicle by May,” Del Bianco said. “We’ve really got to get cracking on it.”

The car doesn't have to be pretty by May, just functional and hitting its numbers for performance and emissions. The third year is when teams must have the cars consumer-acceptable.

The four-year competition is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and by General Motors. The aim is to build on the 26-year history of the DOE’s Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions by continuing to develop the next generation of engineers and scientists.

EcoCAR 3 puts industry-leading software tools and sophisticated powertrain components in the hands of students and pits them against a real-world training ground of engineering constraints and technical challenges.

The 45 students on the team come from business and engineering. There are seven sub-teams: mechanical, electrical, controls, systems modeling and simulation, innovation, project management and communications.

Members have to meet deadlines through all four years in areas of engineering, project management, and communications. The idea is to gain hands-on experience engineering, managing and creating communications content in an automotive industry-like setting.

The team is open to new members. Some course credit can be earned, depending on the student’s course of study.

EcoCAR 3 unveiling

What: View ASU’s brand-new 2016 Camaro donated by GM for the competition, never before revealed to the public. A tour of the garage where engineering students will be working on the car in the upcoming year will be provided; tour will include EcoCAR 3 facilities equipment, machinery and tools.

When: 3-4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Where: ASU Polytechnic campus, Simulation Building (7442 E. Tillman Ave., Mesa). Parking will be provided, with signs indicating exact location.

Admission: Free and open to the public.

Details: https://asuecocar3reveal.eventbrite.com.

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