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Superstars! Behrend wins SAE International Supermileage Challenge Penn State Behrend’s Supermileage Team took first place in the Society of Automotive Engineers 2012 International Supermileage Challenge, up four spots from the team’s 2011 finish. Using ingenuity, a lightweight, aerodynamic design, and a lawnmower engine, the fifteen-member team aced both the design phase of the two-day competition and the test drive. On the track, the vehicle recorded a run at a pace that would squeeze 1,485 miles out of a single gallon of gas! The team is already hard at work on the 2013 vehicle. “We started that on the drive home from the competition,” team member John Pearson said with a laugh. Pearson and his twin brother and teammate, Taylor Pearson, both mechanical engineering majors on schedule to graduate in May, will have one final go around Eaton Corporation’s Proving Grounds in Marshall, Michigan. We talked to the Pearson brothers, teammate Cody Colpo, a sophomore engineering major, and team adviser Rich Englund, associate professor of engineering, about the big win: What does this win mean for the team? John Pearson: To me, it means our team managed to get everything right. It’s nice to see three years of work and experience pay off. Taylor Pearson: Being No. 1 holds a lot of weight. This is the first time a Penn State team has won first place at an SAE competition.

91 1,485 22 lbs.

weight of Supermileage vehicle


winning test drive pace


How does this competition benefit students? Rich Englund: Students get the chance to turn design into reality and really grasp the challenges involved in making parts they have designed. What do you need to achieve maximum super mileage? TP: In no particular order, you need reliability, engine efficiency, aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, driving strategy, and a skilled driver. None of these are easy to attain and you have to have all of them working properly to do well. What would people be surprised to know? Cody Colpo: We utilize a “burn and coast” method of driving. The driver fires the engine for five seconds to get the car up to speed, and then cuts the engine and coasts around the track for two minutes until it’s time to fire the engine and get the car up to speed again. JP: Even at 15 m.p.h., it’s very scary to drive the vehicle because you sit very low to the ground and the car is so narrow that it feels like you’re going 70 m.p.h. How does this experience prepare you for your future career? JP: Being on the team helped me land the great job I will be starting after I graduate. Employers like to see outside projects on your resume and being on the Supermileage Team is a great way to show that you’re really interested in engineering. I spend every Friday night working with the principles I learn all week. Read more Q&A and see dozens of photos at

maximum speed of Supermileage vehicle


Engineering News - 2013  
Engineering News - 2013  

News from Penn State Behrend's School of Engineering