This past Friday marked the 41st Earth Day. The past 40 years have demonstrated the growing global green movement, reinforced each year by Earth Day to celebrate and spread awareness of environmental protection and sustainability.

Earth Day’s goals of environmental protection and sustainability are echoed by the EcoCAR Challenge, its organizers, participating student teams, and sponsors. Sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy, EcoCAR challenges 16 university teams to re-engineer a GM-donated crossover with the goals of improving fuel economy and emissions while maintaining and exceeding the original specifications of the donated vehicle. The task seeks to address changes in consumers’ auto needs as their awareness of sustainability and their environmental footprint grows. The Ohio State University (OSU) EcoCAR team has tackled this challenge with a variety of eco-friendly solutions, from having an all-electric driven mode, to running the car’s small internal combustion engine on E85 fuel, to the soy based fibers in the new seats donated by Lear Corporation.

As a sponsor, MathWorks is greatly supportive of the earth-friendly challenge put forth by EcoCAR. The next generation of engineers and scientists is being tasked with addressing some big issues faced around the world today, and it’s exciting to have our tools for Model-based Design be a part of that. It’s very rewarding for us to support the education of these students as they tackle the challenge of designing the green cars we may one day be driving.

The EcoCAR competition itself is devoted to challenging young engineering students to think about the larger issue of environmental protection and sustainable energy with regards to automobiles and personal transportation. Once thought to be two mutually exclusive goals, the EcoCAR competition proves that the consumers of the near future will not have to sacrifice anything to own and operate an environmentally friendly vehicle. OSU and the other EcoCAR teams are doing a tremendous job reducing to practice the engineering concepts needed to put an advanced propulsion system on the road and building a sustainable academic environment where future engineering leaders are forged.

Paul Smith is the senior manager of North American Automotive Consulting at MathWorks. He is responsible for overall office management in the company’s Novi, Mich., office as well as its North American-based consulting businesses. Paul has more than 20 years of experience working in the automotive engineering industry, including experience with Ford Motor Co. in various capacities that include the production powertrain control systems development organization, diesel engine controls and automotive mechanical design and manufacturing processes.

Tyler Joswick is a fourth-year student at The Ohio State University majoring in photography and minoring in business and history of art. Tyler has been an active member of the Ohio State EcoCAR team for two years. He predominantly works on the outreach side of the competition and generously donates his graphic design skills to the team.