MTU Mobile Lab Reviewed by Sen. Levin

The departments of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM) and Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) at Michigan Technological University met with Senator Levin in Marquette last month for a presentation and demonstration of the Michigan Tech Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Microgrid Mobile Laboratory and to discuss related research and outreach efforts.

The HEV Mobile Lab features a Configurable Hybrid Electric Vehicle (CHEV), a mobile vehicle chassis dynamometer installed with a duplicate of the CHEV’s powertrain, four universal lab stations to support bench-top experiments and simulation studies, three production level HEVs (Chevy Volt, Saturn Vue, and Chevy Malibu), and a number of displays and activities used for outreach.

ME-EM’s initiative for HEVs began in 2008 when they were contacted by Terry Woychowski, PhD, Vice-President of Global Vehicle Program Management at General Motors and ME-EM graduate. He asked the department to help by teaching a HEV powertrain engineering course to displaced engineers in Detroit. The university reworked the financial aid structure and found scholarships for 62 engineers in Detroit to take the new HEV course and further offered it to 33 on-campus students.

Later that spring, the Department of Energy posted a vehicle electrification announcement which included education grants for which Michigan Tech applied. The university received a grant to offer an interdisciplinary curriculum in HEV engineering at both undergraduate and graduate levels. The HEV Mobile Lab was created to bolster educational opportunities for on-campus students, distance students, and STEM outreach programs throughout the country.

ME-EM and ECE department faculty that participated in the presentation included William Predebon, PhD, chair of the ME-EM department; Daniel Fuhrmann, PhD, chair of the ECE department; Jeremy Worm, research engineer; Carl Anderson, PhD, associate dean of the college of engineering; and professors Gordon Parker, PhD; and Wayne Weaver, PhD. Senator Levin discussed the faculty’s outreach goals for the HEV Mobile Lab, using graphics and first-hand demonstrations of the on-board Hybrid Drive Train Test Cell, hybrid bicycle, and configurable hybrid electric vehicle. They further reviewed plans to establish a national center for Mobile and Interconnected Microgrid Research.

The department is already utilizing the lab as a teaching tool, beginning at K-12 schools, on campus, and around the Great Lakes Region. The Mobile Lab was recently present at the Western U.P. Math and Science Fair and will be at the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington D.C. from April 27-29. The Michigan Tech Center for Pre-College Outreach, which has presented its Mind Trekkers science and engineering road show to school children and communities as far away as Washington, DC, and Knoxville, Tenn., has applied for a National Science Foundation grant to expand the program. Senator Levin expressed appreciation for the outreach, while the meeting provided high-level visibility for Michigan Tech’s Mobile Lab.