Tech Eco-car team competes in Detroit

May 12, 2016


Staff Reporter | jmp073@ latech.edu




After a 22-hour drive to Detroit the Louisiana Tech Eco-car team competed for the ninth consecutive year in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2016 held April 22-24.



According to the Shell website, the Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2016 is a competition to design, build and test the most energy-efficient vehicles created by participants from 124 high schools and colleges representing seven countries.



Although the Tech eco-car team fell short of completing a valid run, they were one of two teams to successfully pass inspection for the UrbanConcept, Compressed Natural Gas category.  The team was also one of six teams to pass technical inspections in the UrbanConcept, Diesel category.



Xavier Theriot led the team as car lead and team manager. Theriot said Murphy’s Law played into the unforeseen and unpredictable complications which prevented a valid run for both the cars.



“If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong,” said Theriot, a senior engineering major. “Everything that worked here at Tech did not work in Detroit. We ran into a lot of problems.”



Matthew McHenry has been a part of the eco-car team for two years and was the electrical lead and diesel car driver as a junior engineering major. McHenry said this year was a rebuilding year for the team.



“Seven of the 12 we took to competition were new to the team,” McHenry said. “We would show them how to use all the machines, and they would get nervous. But one of the reasons people join the team is because people love to use their hands.”



Theriot said the team struggled because Shell did not approve the diesel car model until November, pushing production back an entire month.



“We only had only about four months to work on the car,” Theriot said. “The diesel car was not finished until we got to Detroit, whereas in previous years it would be finished two weeks before. Also having to train the new members slowed us down quite a bit. It put us behind the whole year.”



Michael Swanbom is an engineering professor at Tech and has served as one of the faculty sponsors since the team was created in 2008. Swanbom said Tech has always created the most aesthetically appealing cars at the competition, but creating good-looking cars is not the main goal.



“Our strength has been the appearance of our vehicles,” Swanbom said. “We were all disappointed with the outcome of this year, but really good lessons came out of it. The personality of the team is optimistic which is not uncommon for a young team.”



Theriot said Tech’s eco-car was able to aid the competition because it is one of the few that passed inspection.



“You’re helping to shape the future of the competition,” Theriot said. “Even though my run is invalid, we did something no one else in the world could do.”



Swanbom said the students do not receive course credit for all the hours they put into creating a car from scratch.


“We have a hard time hanging onto juniors and seniors because studies in school come first,” Swanbom said. “This team sets them up for their career. This is their mission of love.”


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