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Aramco-sponsored team wins at Shell Eco-Marathon

The vehicle’s driver, Surawud Martinez, had to drive 10 laps around a 0.6-mile course.

HOUSTON - Determined to be the first team from the University of Colorado in Denver to participate in the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition – which encourages students to design the most fuel-efficient vehicles in the world – a team of nine sponsored by Saudi Aramco took first place in their category on April 7.  
One of the team’s members, Aydh Alajmi, 22, who attends the university on a Saudi Aramco sponsorship, contacted ASC and received financial support from Saudi Aramco to build the award-winning vehicle.
“When Aramco approved sponsoring my team, it showed the support it will always provide for creativity, technology and new ideas,” Alajmi said.
The team, all senior mechanical engineering students, designed and constructed a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that achieved a maximum of 205 miles per gallon. (Last year’s winner in the same category achieved 169 miles per gallon.) 
“When we first got our car on the track, I had a good feeling,” said Alajmi, who served as the project manager. “I never thought that six months ago, when we were doing fuel calculations back at school that I would be doing it here in real life. It’s unbelievable.”
The competition, which took place from April 5-7, drew 134 high school and college teams from North and South America, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala. Students competed in a Prototype category, which focused on futuristic vehicles that achieved extreme fuel efficiency, and in an Urban Design category, which focused on more practical vehicles that could conceivably be driven on roadways. All vehicles could use diesel, gasoline, ethanol, Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME), hydrogen or batteries for power.
Alajmi’s team placed in the prototype, hydrogen-fueled category. They wanted to salvage a loss experienced by their peers last year when their vehicle – the university’s first entry in the competition – was disqualified before the race because of an engine failure.
The students built a 120-pound, three-wheeled vehicle in the Prototype category using hydrogen fuel cells for power from carbon fiber and a honeycomb core ribbing system. The vehicle, called the H2 Eco Challenger, also utilized a trapezoidal steering mechanism and a mountain bike hydraulic disc brake system to minimize friction and drag. To further their chances of winning, the team selected a 112-pound male driver – making the 10 required laps around a 0.6-mile track extra light.
“The road was very rough. There were potholes and lots of vibrations, so that was a little scary,” said Surawud Martinez, 40, the driver. Wearing a headset that allowed the team to communicate with him as he drove the circular course, Martinez said, “Each time I was whipping around, they were telling me what lap number I was on and how to make better turns and passes.”
The team’s advisor, Ron Rorrer, associate professor of mechanical engineering, said he attributes the success to the project being solely student driven, including the vehicle’s design, materials and even how to ship the vehicle to the competition. “When they pick the things they want to do, that’s where you get the commitment. That’s where you get a student for a three-credit hour class putting in 1,000 hours over nine weeks,” he said.
Alajmi can attest to that, admitting he has slept in the machine shop trying to build the vehicle this spring semester. It was designed last semester by the same team. “This project has been my life. It’s been everything for me this past year. There are not even words to describe my feelings. We’ve been working even for 12 hours and sometimes 15 hours a day.”
The team members included Alajmi, Martinez, Ryan Anderson, Ibrahim Alzamanan, David Edelman, John Van Ngo, Dong Nguyen, Ronnie Prado and Nick Wager.

Click here to visit their website, which describes the design of the vehicle and includes photos and videos of its performance. 

Aydh Alajmi, kneeling next to the driver, Surawud Martinez, poses with his teammates, standing from left to right: Ronnie Prado, Ibrahim Alzamanan, Nick Wager, Ryan Anderson, and their faculty advisor, Ron Rorrer, far right.

Saudi Aramco-sponsored student, Aydh Alajmi, gives last-minute advice to the vehicle’s driver, Surawud Martinez, before the competition.

Aydh Alajmi, left, who is a Saudi Aramco-sponsored student, and his teammates test their vehicle’s brakes on a ramp before the competition.


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