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We have liftoff! The UBC Supermileage team is now well on its way to the Shell Eco-Marathon America’s. We are currently in Chicago and en route to Detroit, the new home of the Eco-Marathon. The Zoticus and Mark X have beat us there, and are eagerly awaiting their chance to shine. Competition will run from April 8-13th, so hold onto your seats avid blog followers, because 5 days of action packed excitement is on the way!

Bye Bye Vancouver!

Bye Bye Vancouver!

What’s that you say?  You missed us? And why the heck is the last post of the crate accident?! Well, we have been busy busy busy building two brand new cars from scratch and designing some sweet new innovations to improve our fuel mileage this year. Unfortunately we were a little too busy to blog (read ‘we’re too cool for blog’), our bad :/ Hopefully you switched gears and started following us on our incredibly awesome Facebook page (which you should definitely Like).

On that note, its about time we introduced the cars! The Zoticus is our new Urban Concept. Don’t be fooled by the fact that little Zoti looks a lot like her brother Ody, she is a brand new ultra low gas sipping machine. Unlike any UBCST cars before her, Zoti has a two speed drive train to help her power up those hills. Zoti also has some rocking new kicks, with new and much lighter wheels and brakes. The shell is two ply instead of three for even more weight reduction, and in house vacuum formed windows.

Putting stickers on Zoticus

Putting stickers on Zoticus

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Mark X has a brand new look this year! We hope you love our beautiful new aero shell as much as we do. Significant design changes including a convertible style door will make this shell far more streamlined and ideal for many of our future monocoque and engine changes. New this year is a carbon fibre aluminum honeycomb sandwich chassis base with Karbon reinforcement. Mark is lean mean and rugged… ready to eat up this challenging new track.

Mark X

Mark X

The Aero Dream Team

The Aero Dream Team

Keep tuning in for more updates as competition progresses! Ta ta for now 🙂

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ps: You may notice that these pictures are fresh!! We are in Detroit now, the cars are nearly ready for technical inspection tomorrow and we are off to bed 🙂

Looking up to a great competition :)

Looking up to a great competition 🙂

Welcome to Detroit!

Welcome to Detroit!

COBO Center, our new home!

COBO Center, our new home!

Clay developing his new musical talents

Clay developing his new musical talents

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Some Wilde person somewhere once said that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life. There’s a deal of truth in this; art and life are two components of an endless feedback loop of imitation and reiteration, reflecting and refracting and sincerely flattering one another. Now, One could also make the argument that video games are a form of interactive art, and while there aren’t many people punching holes in trains or shooting lightning out of their fingertips there are some striking parallels between life and game, game and life, and life and art. Follow the parallels on the art feedback-loop for long enough and they become a tangent that segues into a point on the hypothetical Cartesian plane that is the Superblog ii. 
 
The point, gentle internet folk, is that the UBC Supermileage Team is now playing life on Hard Mode.
 
On its return from a nail-biting but ultimately successful Eco Marathon competition (3rd place in Urban Concept with 325mpg) disaster of epic proportion struck. Perhaps we tempted fate by naming our vehicle Odysseus, who’s own victorious trip home transmogrified from happy homecoming to odious odyssey. Whatever the cause, the effect was clear and profound: the semi-truck carrying the Odysseus, the Mark IX, all of our tools and most of our equipment rolled over a cliff and was totally totaled. And like the Odysseus of legend, our shipping crate did eventually return to us. The following picture is graphic and may be upsetting to some viewers. It certainly upset all of us. 
 
OH THE HUMANITY

The shattered shells and crumpled chassis of our beloved vehicles

 
For those of you wondering what Hard Mode looks like for a Supermileage Team, it’s a little like this:
 
Odysseus, Urban Concept: TOTALED
Mark IX, Prototype: DEMOLISHED
Drill press: PRESSED ITS LAST DRILL
Various tools, chests, and mechanical equipment: UNWILLING SACRIFICES TO THE GODS OF DESTRUCTION
Years of hard work: SCATTERED TO THE FOUR WINDS OF CHANCE, CHANGE, FATE, AND KISMET
 
But while much has been lost, not all is lost. For though this is quite possibly the darkest day in our Supermileage history a bright beacon of hope pierces the murk like a simile inside a metaphor. 
 
It will take time, but we will rebuild.
 
It will take money, but we will fundraise.
 
It will take blood and sweat (but not really any blood: we’re far too safe for that), but we will persevere.
 
The goal is as it has ever been: have two vehicles ready for competition at the next Shell Eco Marathon. It’ll be a challenge for sure, but some other guy once said 

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Well Teddy, prepare to be super envious.
Shout out to the UBC Mech department for the emergency funding to get us back on our feet! You guys rock my fleecy wool socks!

 

One Last Goodbye

Hello Supermileagers!

Were you expecting a post wrapping up the week yesterday? Oh naĂŻve follower, Sunday is usually so crazy that we have no chance to upload anything. This one in particular had the misfortune of being one of the most nerve-wracking down-to-the-wire experiences that UBC Supermileage has ever had at the Eco-marathon. The morning of, we had yet to post a score with either the Mark IX prototype or the Odysseus urban-concept. We would have two opportunities with each to change that, but after that the competition would be over. So far we had battery issues with the Ody, bringing us to a halt a mere 500m from the finish, and we had a failure of our engine timing system that caused the Mark IX to break down 1.5km from the finish line.

It was a long night for most of the team working to fix these problems. The set screws on the timing pulleys we beefed up and cranked down as tightly as they would go. We purchased some oversize (and overweight) batteries that were sure to last far more than 1 race, sacrificing the extra pounds for the reliability they would give. By the sun rose on Sunday morning we were sure we could post a score with the Odysseus, but the Mark IX remained in question.

Despite the untiring efforts of our engine team working around the clock, the prototype vehicle had developed a bug in its systems where we couldn’t reliably sustain a speed or power at any operating point. We were baffled, this problem hadn’t existed yesterday when we had some fantastic laps, it had just appeared from nowhere. Even so, the engine team pushed through the night to get any sort of performance out of the vehicle.

The Ody was the first to hit the track in the morning. Driver Nancy was prepped and eager to hit the track. Just like yesterday, we put in an admirable performance, this time fully completing the race for the first time this week! There was no celebration this time, however. Timing revealed we came in 15 seconds too slow for the run to be considered valid; UBCST still had not posted a score.

The Mark IX was the next to try its luck. Engine had yet to find the bug that had crippled the prototype overnight, but it was running so we put it on the track in order to log data that might be helpful in diagnosing the problem. Upon the first laps it was immediately clear we wouldn’t be finishing on time; regardless of how hard driver Nancy (other Nancy, not the first Nancy from before) tried to raise the speed, the engine simply was unable to accelerate the vehicle past a light jogging pace. We ran 4 laps and brought it back to the paddock to see what we could do.

Then disaster struck.

Well, I should say that disaster had already struck, but the full extent of said disaster striking was discovered.

A large, catastrophic crack had formed right near the air intake for the engine. We’re still not sure how it happened, but effectively this meant that we would be unable to have any control over the throttle. This was part of the cause of the instability now present in the engine. This wasn’t something we would be able to fix at competition. Some quick thinking from engineers Kevan and Hudson got the vehicle moving under power, so we sent the Mark IX out for the last time.

It was again clear we weren’t able to achieve the speeds we needed to complete the race, thanks largely due to the crack in the engine. Even so, knowing this was its last race, we pushed on in hopes of simply crossing the finish line.

This was the point at which our ultra-fuel efficient vehicle ran out of gas.

I should explain, the Mark IX is fitted with a mere 30mL fuel tank. This corresponds to about 800mpg efficiency required to finish the race. With our expected performance under normal operating conditions, this would be far more than sufficient to carry us through. With the still-unexplained engine control bugs and crippled intake however, all bets were off and we coasted to a stop on the final lap.

Supermileage now turned its attention to the Odysseus. Driver Nancy had rethought strategy for this race, and had a better chance of bringing it in on time. The urban-concept car once again drove beautifully, and successfully completed the 10 laps.

It was then that the timing marshal delivered the crushing news; the Odysseus had crossed the finish line exactly 1 second overtime. The run still did not count.

We didn’t wait to find out the mileage, with only 4 minutes to be in the line preparing for the last race, we pushed the vehicle through to the queue. From the performance on the track, we decided that the chief cause of our speed problem was that our top speed was too slow, so Nancy would have to be nearly constantly on the gas pedal if she wanted to finish on time, not exactly ideal for an efficiency competition. Faced with little time to start another attempt, we raised the maximum rpm (rotations per minute) that our engine computer allowed the engine to run at, again made a driving strategy adjustment, and sent the Odysseus out for its last run of the year.

This run went much better. With the increased top speed, Nancy brought the race to a close with 30 seconds remaining. We had finished with a score of 326mpg. We had placed third in our category!

So there you have it. UBC Supermileage completed this year’s competition with 326mpg from the Odysseus, and a DNF for the Mark IX. I won’t say we’re not disappointed we couldn’t post 2 successful scores; that was always the goal. But we are incredibly proud of the determination and work ethic shown throughout the year in Vancouver and over the last week in Houston. The urban concept car took home a trophy to sit next to last year’s, and achieved a score that should impress anyone.

Next year’s Eco-marathon is being held in Detroit, so let’s bid Houston one last goodbye, pack up, and head on home! Thanks for following along and supporting us this past week, it’s been a wild ride and I hope you enjoyed the show.

 

-Ryan Gibson

UBC Supermileage Captain 2013-2014

Welcome to Purgatory

You know that feeling when the clouds open up and sunshine pours in through the window, the vending machine gives you two cans by mistake, and your favourite song comes on the radio? Ya I miss those times. I like to think about them when we have days like these.

Meanwhile Jocelyn enjoys seatbelts

Meanwhile Jocelyn enjoys seatbelts

Don’t get me wrong, with the combined capabilities of 16 UBC engineers there was no way we could possible fail to perform the tasks that needed doing. The prototype was successfully put through technical inspection, and both Odysseus and Mark IX hit the road for the first time this year! I particularly enjoyed watching Nancy deftly weave by competitor’s cars in the Mark IX as she raced to complete her run on time. It’s pretty clear on the track that our vehicles are better geared for performance than many of its peers, although maybe that’s just our thousands of adoring fans getting into my head.

Mark IX was our first vehicle to hit the track this year

Mark IX was our first vehicle to hit the track this year

Before you get overly confused looking for us on the online scoreboards (found here at http://www.shell.com/global/environment-society/ecomarathon/events/americas/results.html/l/7vtbzw2hj2/vza7xfdyek/_/_/_/_/_) you won’t find us. Neither car successfully completed a run. In their closest-to-successful attempts, the Odysseus ran out of battery power (disabling tdhe starter motor and thus the main engine) with a mere 500m to go until the finish line. Mark IX suffered a similar setback, experiencing a mechanical failure in its engine timing systems with only one and a half laps left.

Just a picture of our competition. What, you thought we were gonna ignore they existed?

Just a picture of our competition. What, you thought we were gonna ignore they existed?

Weak hearted teams might take this as a major bummer and get discouraged, but not so for us! These and other runs proved to us that the vehicles were mechanically sound and prepared to drive. Controls were responsive and driving appeared smooth overall.

Engine engineer Neil tells me that overnight we’ll be able to tune to be twice as efficient as we currently are. A huge part of this ability is our new chassis dyno. Essentially we’re able to simulate the car being on a road without it actually going anywhere. I’m not generally one for chasing after in-progress cars, so this is a big advantage.

Warning: Efficiency in progress

Warning: Efficiency in progress

Tomorrow is our last chance to post scores for this year’s Shell Eco-Marathon. We’ll be running the Odysseus in the morning, the Mark IX in the early afternoon, and the Odysseus will get one more shot in the late afternoon. Tonight’s work is centered around giving our drivers the best possible shot at maximizing performance. Canadian teams have taken 3 of the top 5 positions in the prototype gasoline category, with Université de Laval and University of Toronto neck and neck for first place.

Toronto and Laval leading the pack. Canada has only 7 out of 48 teams in this category

Toronto and Laval leading the pack. Canada has only 7 out of 48 teams in this category

Dissapointed by a lack of post yesterday? Ya I would be too in your position if I were denied the melodious storytelling that I’m sure your internal head-voice assigns my writing.

Katelyn inspects during technical inspection

Katelyn inspects during technical inspection

So yesterday. The day before today. We started very optimistic with a clear goal in mind: Get both vehicles through technical inspection and get the Odysseus on for a practice lap. We had a spot saved halfway through the inspection lineup because we’re awesome. But also mostly because that’s where we had run out of time the day prior. We flew through the brake check, but had a problem with our seatbelt. The inspector wasn’t a fan of the mounting configuration and forced us to make a rapid new mounting system. Later, during the inspection of our lights, we ran into some more setbacks. A ghost in our electronics destroyed our digital systems, forcing us to hardwire all of our lights.

Not pictured - smoldering black magic-channeling devices known as electronics

Not pictured – smoldering black magic-channeling devices known as electronics

Despite these considerable setbacks, we managed to clear the Odysseus through technical inspection by the end of the day. The Mark IX prototype got about halfway through the inspection process before running out of time.

This all left us in the enviable position of getting to race in the first official event of the competition: the 8am Urban Concept first run. This is when the fun really begins, as each time tries ever crazier schemes in order to stretch very mpg out of their vehicles they can. The prototype runs and second urban concept opportunity happen in quick succession, so the UBC Supermileage team plans to be on its toes for the entire day.

DSC_0665

I won’t lie to you dear reader, I’m finishing up this post on Saturday, which means I’m going to wrap this up quickly and get on to the next post. Continue reading to hear today’s events!

Reserve Driver Karry dons his women's racing suit

Reserve Driver Karry dons his women’s racing suit

Good news everyone! The crate gods smiled upon us with their boxy plywood mouths and delivered our majestically overbuilt shipping container to us with only minor damage. The bad news you ask? Of course there’s bad news! The evil shipping deity was not nearly so kind and decided to demonstrate his displeasure by holding our crate 2 hours longer than everyone else. We didn’t get access until 2pm which left us only 4.5 hours to get both gas conserving steeds through technical inspection. Of course, for a Supermileage team with as much fortitude and gumption as UBC, this was hardly a daunting task

Tight quarters make for crowded work

Tight quarters make for crowded work

So with that in mind you would think we would have made it further than halfway through. With one car. Then inspection shuts down at 7pm. Not to worry oh worrisome reader! We’ve got another run at it tomorrow.

Supermileage brings only its fiercest members to face the grueling technical inspection

Supermileage brings only its fiercest members to face the grueling technical inspection

So hows about I give you a run through of the other teams who you’ll be able to see below us on the scoreboard? Because I can only assume word spread of UBC’s success last year spread like cooties at a summer camp, there is a record 10 Canadian teams at this year’s competition. To be frank, the Canadian fleet has some pretty mean looking cars, and I anticipate seeing a lot of maple leafs in high positions. As for the other teams, there are some really innovative designs, from tubular urban concept vehicles to a fully vacuum-formed plastic gas prototype. There are even cars that were designed around themes, such as a Delorean as seen in Back to the Future.

Luckily, we don't have to go up against these guys

Luckily, we don’t have to go up against these guys

So as I said before, due to a mixup by the shipping company, our crate didn’t show up until 2pm, which is 2 hours after everyone else got theirs. Upon learning this I put on my angry face and glared in a smoldering manner in the general direction of the shipping company’s representative. She must have noticed because she left her desk and shortly after the forklift arrived with the cars.

So other than running out of time in the technical inspection queue today has gone pretty well. A flurry of action led to a team record of unpacking and setting up our space in under 25 minutes. A lack of a provided lunch lead to many Supermileagers getting their first taste of the artery clogarrific wonder that is Chick-fil-a. I’ve been assured that the few extra calories will have little effect on the Greek sculpture-like physiques of this year’s Houston contingent.

 

Seriously, I think this is some sort of obsession down here

Seriously, I think this is some sort of obsession down here

The plan tonight is to do a bit more work in putting finishing touches on both vehicles to be competition-perfected before hitting the sack. There’s a long weekend ahead, and it’s important for us to get at least a little sleep before it even starts! That said, I’ll sign out for today, be sure to check back tomorrow to see how our practice runs went! Competitive runs start on Saturday.

We may or may not have enough beds for everyone... but don't worry, we're engineers!

We may or may not have enough beds for everyone… but don’t worry, we’re engineers!

Ready to Travel

I was awoken by the frantic buzz of my phone alarm clock, the same as every other day.

But this was no ordinary day.

Maybe it was the slight change in humidity from the day before, or the way the shadows played in the corner of the room. Maybe it was the fact that I’m not in the habit of waking up at 4am.

I bolted to my feet, today was Houston day!

We choose to fly from Seattle due to the massive drop in price in airline tickets. “Half price” sounds pretty good when you’re trying to move 16 people across the continent. I once heard the cost was so much higher because special planes have to be used when crossing the Canada-US border that can automatically adjust its instruments to handle air that was suddenly in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius and winds that switched from km/h to mph, but I’m sure those are just silly rumours.

I won’t bore you, the road trip was uneventful. I learned a bit of island terminology thanks to Katelyn, and later I found out that McDonalds and I have a difference in opinion over exactly how much liquid a “small” drink size should hold.

The airport was little different. While waiting at the gate for boarding to be called, I surveyed the 15 other Supermileage members joining me at the Shell Eco-Marathon this year. There was Kevan, Clayton, Neil, and Hudson from Engine division. Aero was represented by Nick, Alex, and Jeffrey. Karry, Katelyn, Cole, and Jocelyne were there from Chassis, while Derek and Jeffrey were our Electrical members. That of course left Nancy and Nancy, our drivers. Oh yes, intrepid reader, if our double Nancy situation last year tickled your pringles than you’ll love our double Jeffrey-double Nancy setup this year! Not since the Katelyn-Kaitlin confusion of ’12 has there been such nameplay involved.

Waiting at baggage claim

Waiting at baggage claim

Like a group of 8 year olds at their first basketball practice, this bunch was prepared to travel.

We’re lucky enough to be flying direct on one of the newer model Boeing 737-900s. The ones with proper air circulation so you don’t really realize you’re in a pressurized metal tube hurling through the air at hundreds of kilometers an hour. There’s actually an American high school from Granite Falls, Washington that caught the same plane as us. The flight attendant announced their presence at the beginning of the flight and the rest of the passengers wished them luck. We decided to let them have their moment; we’d have ours on the podium on Sunday.

Our first glimpse of the city!

Our first glimpse of the city!

We enjoyed the beautiful 30° weather this afternoon by taking a tour of the competition area and grabbing some dinner at a grocery store nearby. This year we’re unfortunately split into two hotels, with one room at each. I’m calling them the “forward base” and the “command post”, but don’t tell the rest of the team that…

 

General layout of the area

General layout of the area

Tomorrow starts at 8am, and we get access to the cars at 12. Our plan is to push the Ody through tech inspection right away, and spend the rest of the day/night/next day completing the Mark IX in order for it to get through technical inspection.

Check in tomorrow to see how we get on with the first day of the competition!