Clean Snowmobile Challenge kicks off in the Keweenaw

In today’s society, people try to make their lifestyles as eco–friendly as possible.

In the Copper Country, snowmobiles are everywhere.

Combine the two and you get the 2014 Clean Snowmobile Challenge taking place all week at the Keweenaw Research Center. The event, which has been going on for more than a decade, allows students from across the U.S. to create quiet and fuel-efficient snowmobiles.

Event Coordinator Jay Meldrum said the event brings in a lot of big name companies.

“Manufacturers meet here during this week and look and see what the students do. They hire the students to work for them. We have several returning alumni from this challenge helping out. So it’s been a good thing for the industry in general,” he said.

One of the main reasons for the event is to eliminate the negative stigma snowmobiles have.  Some trails get shutdown because of the fuel exhaust released from the snowmobiles so the students experiment with different fuels to create safer and efficient engines.

“They’ve also learned how to make snowmobiles quieter by softer track materials, by sound-denting material within the body of the snowmobile and there’s quite a bit of learning going on,” Meldrum said.

Michigan Tech’s Internal Combustion team has become a staple in the competition and they are looking to improve on their design from last year.

“We took the snowmobile, benchmarked, tested it and designed all new components and different engineering strategies that we use to make the sled lighter and more clean for the environment and more quiet,” President of the Internal Combustion Team at MTU Fackender said.

Fackender added that there is one thing that he enjoys the most about this competition.  “I think the most important thing is leadership and teamwork. A lot of the stuff you learn in school is all in books and you can’t teach people to work together really well until they’re forced to be in a situation where they have to.”

The students were able to see their snowmobiles ride out on a short course before they are driven all the way to Copper Harbor.

All in an effort to see whose snowmobile can withstand the rigors of a winter trail and still be conscious of the environment.