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Advisor to automotive competition team wins college award

Glenn Bower

Glenn R. Bower (10K JPG)

The teams

The UW-Madison Clean Snowmobile is taken out for a run at Tyrol Basin near Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is the newest collegiate design competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). In it, teams re-engineer an existing snowmobile to reduce noise and emissions while maintaining or improving performance. In just its third year of existence, the UW-Madison Clean Snowmobile Team beat 17 others to win the 2004 national championship. Key to the students' success, says Bower, was their development of an innovative gas-electric engine — the first hybrid engine ever to appear in the challenge. In the 2005 competition, the team placed third overall while also earning an award for the lowest emissions.

Mini-Baja team 2002

The Society of Automotive Engineers' (SAE) longest running automotive competition, SAE Mini-Baja requires engineering students to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive the punishment of rough terrain and water. Three regional competitions — called East, Midwest and West — are held each year. This year's West event featured a grueling 100-mile endurance race in the Arizona desert in honor of SAE's 100th anniversary. Out of more than 130 teams registered to compete, UW-Madison placed fourth overall and fourth in the endurance event. The team won national championships in 2000 and 2001.


Team Paradigm is the UW-Madison student group that builds hybrid electric vehicles. Since 1992 the team has competed in a series of multi-year competitions sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and others. In the FutureCar Challenge, which began in 1995, the team won two national championships with a redesigned car called the Aluminum Cow. In the five-year FutureTruck competition that followed, the team earned three consecutive national titles (2002-2004) with a hybrid Ford Explorer. The first year of the latest challenge, called Challenge X, focused on modeling and simulation. At the competition held this June, the students placed 10th. They now move to the next round, which involves modifying a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox. In preparation, this year the team renovated a General Motors EV1 — the first true electric vehicle ever built by a manufacturer.

Formula SAE car

The Formula SAE competition tasks engineering students with designing, building, marketing and racing a small, formula-style racing vehicle. An annual competition is held each year in which approximately 120 teams from colleges and universities throughout the world participate. The UW-Madison Formula Team consistently places in the top 10 in competition, with second place finishes in 2000 and 2002. At this year's competition in Pontiac, Michigan, the team took third place.

Faculty Associate Glenn Bower has received the 2005 Bollinger Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award from the College of Engineering. As advisor to COE's many automotive competition teams, Bower has taught thousands of students the concrete skills of machining and welding, as well as the value of leadership and teamwork. Due to his own exceptional leadership and dedication, Bower's student teams have won nine national titles since 1996.

Within the limited time frame of the academic year, Bower guides 150 to 200 students in designing, building and testing vehicles. The year culminates in a series of national competitions where teams present the specifications of their vehicles and drive them in a series of road tests. In preparation, Bower spends countless hours in the garage teaching students at all levels not only the technical aspects of building a vehicle, but also the purpose of each component and its place in the overall configuration. The training students receive is so thorough that those hired by automotive companies after graduation can often skip the industry's usual two-year orientation. In fact, companies have begun recruiting top students directly from his program, Bower says; Polaris, for example, has hired four students from his Mini-Baja team alone.

Under Bower's mentorship, teams also become tight-knit families in which members learn to trust and help one another, exchange ideas respectfully, make savvy real-world decisions, and remain poised under pressure. One of his proudest moments as an advisor came at the 2004 FutureTruck competition when his students — after careful planning and delegation of tasks — coolly and competently fixed a seemingly insurmountable problem with their vehicle's steering system. After reassembling their truck just 30 minutes before the last day of competition began, they went on to win their third consecutive championship.


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Date last modified: Monday, 11-Jul-2005 16:09:31 CDT
Date created: 11-Jul-2005

Copyright 2005 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

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