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Student innovations draw industry attention at Clean Snowmobile Challenge

A team of NDSU engineering students earned praise for their innovative design at the 19th annual SAE International Clean Snowmobile Challenge, held March 4-9 at Michigan Tech University.

The competition is an opportunity for students to apply classroom theories to real-world problems, and attracts teams and companies from across the United States.

NDSU has competed in the diesel utility category for the past several years. Team captain and NDSU SAE president Michael Restad said it’s a great opportunity for students to get hands-on experience with the type of engine technology many local employers use. 

“The real reason for us doing diesel is that’s what the industry does around here. The skills you learn working in this competition make you the type of engineer they want to hire,” Restad said.

This year’s NDSU team faced some challenges and breakdowns during the competition, but even that provided valuable training they can take to their careers.

“When you have big projects you can’t think of everything, and even if you try, there’s always something that comes up,” Restad said. “It was really cool to see just how much effort people put in and how they reacted to the problems. I was really proud of them.”

And despite the struggles, several of the team’s engineering innovations attracted interest from industry officials and judges.

“We added electronic power steering this year. That was a completely underclassmen-led project and they did a phenomenal job,” Restad said. “Another student made a touch-screen dashboard that included GPS and remote engine tuning.”

One of the industry sponsors was so impressed by the dashboard, he awarded the NDSU team a $1,300 Controller Area Network package, the standard protocol used in most vehicles, to help them take the technology to the next level.

“I’m really excited to see what they are going to come up with next year,” Restad said.

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North Dakota State University
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