This past April, Altair Engineering teamed up with Shell to assist in the judging of the Vehicle Design Award at Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2018 in Sonoma, California. This award recognizes innovative design, research and original execution in terms of ergonomics, aesthetics, choice of materials, technical feasibility and eco-friendliness. This year, I had the honor of being selected as one of three judges for the Vehicle Design Award. This being my first time at the Make the Future Festival, I didn't know exactly what to expect, even though I have experience of over three decades in a variety of technologies and developmental work. However, in the end, it was truly an unforgettable experience.
When one thinks of an oil company, something overlooked is the engineering and investment required to move our society. Even if we had boundless oil reserves, there are many that know our future for energy is elsewhere. Being a strong renewable energy advocate, I found this event to be built up of those exceptional people, who are the visionaries of our future and will move our society. This was clearly demonstrated by hundreds of collegiate and high school students. These students have limited budgets, some having to travel thousands of miles across the globe, brought their electric, hydrogen or gas-fueled experimental vehicles to the Shell Eco-marathon to compete in the world’s leading energy efficiency competition.
The innovations in fuel-efficient vehicles were truly amazing to see. There were vehicles that eked-out every bit of efficiency through aero, thermal and mechanical dynamics. Some teams even performed in-depth simulations to confirm their design data and other teams did actual testing in wind tunnels. These students assessed and designed the most efficient electrical and mechanical control systems, body panels and drive trains to yield vehicles that performed in the high hundreds and thousands of miles per gallon range.
These young technologists are the ones who will make a better future for generations to come. It is also the multitude of Shell employees and executives and an army of volunteers with a common belief. Even in the face of adversity, competing teams would help each other with solutions, parts, encouragement and whatever was needed to get done, got done. The event culminated with the top 5 competitors racing for three slots to attend the competition in London. It was the 40-mph amazing race where limited equivalent energy sources, solid engineering, and seven lap gaming strategy met to yield the winners. I can't wait for the event again next year!