New Clean Snowmobile team goes dashing through the snow

Student race team to compete at its first national meet in Michigan, March 4-9

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The newly formed RIT Clean Snowmobile team will compete at its first meet in Michigan at the SAE Collegiate Design Series International Challenge this March. The team will display its snowmobile and discuss the technology they incorporated into the competitive vehicle at this year’s Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival, May 4.

The newest addition to RIT’s racing heritage may have snowmobile skis rather than radial tires, but its team leaders think it will be just as fast.

“We have a couple things that we don’t think have ever been done on the snowmobile or in this competition before, so we’re pretty excited to see how it turns out,” says Mark Menzenski, the RIT Clean Snowmobile team manager. “We’re taking a lot of the new state-of-the-art diesel technology, gasoline emissions technology that you find in your car and retrofitting it on a much smaller scale for the snowmobile.”

The RIT Clean Snowmobile team will compete in its first national event March 4–9 at the SAE Collegiate Design Series International Clean Snowmobile Challenge in Michigan. It will be one of the 18 collegiate design teams at the event and will have upped the turbo-power of its snowmobile and retrofitted the winter vehicle to be ultra-fuel efficient.

“What we’re doing is taking a turbo-charged, four-stroke engine out of a sled that is a few years older, and putting it in Polaris’ state-of-the-art two-stroke chassis that was developed only two years ago,” says Menzenski, a fifth-year student from Ithaca, N.Y. “Not only will the sled handle really well and have good suspension, it is cleaner, quieter and more fuel efficient.”

The 13-member team consists of students from the mechanical engineering technology program in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology. While each one brings different technology skills to the team, Menzenski gives a lot of the credit for the system design to teammate John Bulzacchelli, a fifth-year student from Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

“He dreams big. We originally had a pretty simple design, something that we knew would possibly not win, but would get us there as a first-year team,” says Menzenski. “Then he found out that the engine had a turbo-charger, and then he was on board.”

“He probably spends more time reading about turbos than a lot of other things,” adds Zack Kraenzle, team vice president.

He continued: “We’re running a cool exhaust circulation system, which means that a portion of the exhaust gas coming out of the engine gets recycled back into the intake, and it gets burned twice, which lowers the emissions. It also increases fuel economy.”

Additional technologies they have incorporated into the design includes a variable geometry turbocharger that simulates both a small- and large-capacity turbo charger, something that has not been done on gas engines because of temperature limitations, Kraenzle explains, because it’s more of a diesel application and expensive.

“But we feel that the benefits will outweigh the negatives. We get to build a cool snowmobile, learn a lot in the process,” says Kraenzle, a fifth-year student from North Bennington, Vt. “For Polaris, the company that provided the snowmobile sled and engine, this is research and development. Who knows? We’re doing things that could possibly be on production snowmobiles in the next few years.”

The team was chartered by RIT’s Student Government this fall almost as quickly as the turbo-charged sled will run. After a casual conversation with a fellow co-op student from Clarkson University this past summer, Menzenski considered pulling together a team for RIT. He and Kraenzle worked with RIT’s Student Government in September, requested start-up funding, received their snowmobile from Minnesota in October, and found a site to work enhancing the engine for testing in the Rapid Prototyping Lab located in Global Village. At just about the same time, they coordinated team travel, acquired multiple sponsors and completed classes and exams. Even though they are rookies on the circuit this year, the team is confident that the design will be a winner and the snowmobile will soar.