Malaysia’s eco-marathoners in their own league
THEY toiled over the project tasks for months on end. They missed out on free time, they missed out on weekend socialising, they even missed some classes and at times, they also missed out on sleep.
For the thousands of dedicated students who took part in the Shell Eco-marathon Asia 2017 that was held earlier this month in Singapore, those months of hard work, worries and sacrifices culminated in four days of last-minute touchups, final inspections, trial runs and moments of reckoning.
In the end, some emerged winners and celebrated their successful team effort. And for those who won, you could see the relief, the jubilance and exhilaration expressed on their faces. You couldn’t help but just share in their joy.
But those who did not win could still take comfort in knowing they had the experience of a lifetime and learned lessons that could never be taught in a classroom.
And to have made it to the competition was an achievement in itself.
To quote Shell Malaysia country chairman Datuk Iain Lo: “The real prize and victory is that of working as a team — raising funds, travelling together and being tested against rivals on and off track.”
There were 123 student teams from 20 countries who came, who challenged and who went home with knowledge and insight and new-found friends, if not trophies.
Reigning champions Team UiTM Eco-Sprint from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Shah Alam tasted victory for the fourth year running.
This global event aims to inspire young people to become scientists and engineers of the future.
Held in Singapore for the first time, the Shell Eco-marathon Asia is an annual competition that challenges teams to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient cars.
After undergoing a stringent 190-point technical inspection and passing all the stations including dimensions, safety and brakes, the vehicles will then be allowed to do practice runs on the track to see how far they can go with the least amount of fuel, before the actual race.
As with last year in Manila, it was a sweet 1-2 victory for the Malaysian competitors in the category of prototype vehicle using hydrogen fuel cell.
UiTM Eco-Sprint’s Chantenk achieved a result of 359.4km/ m3 while runners-up, University of Malaya Eco-Voyager’s Evora, managed an improved reading of 255.7km/m3 compared to the team’s previous reading at the competition last year.
Each team could choose to compete in one of two main categories — UrbanConcept and Prototype.
UrbanConcept vehicles resemble today’s road-going cars, albeit super-energy-efficient versions.
Prototype cars are futuristic, highly-aerodynamic vehicles that push the boundaries of what’s possible with energy-efficiency.
These categories are further divided into the three sub-categories of energy sources which are Internal Combustion Engine (ICE): gasoline, diesel, ethanol (biofuel), gas to liquid (GTL) fuel made from natural gas or CNG (compressed natural gas); hydrogen fuel cell; and battery electric power.
The other Malaysian teams were UiTM EcoPlanet; Team Monash UC and Eco-Chaser, both from Monash University; Genesis UTAR from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman; and Grune Welt from the Multimedia University Melaka Campus.
The Shell Eco-marathon is a competition that challenges students to design, build and drive the most energy efficient vehicle.
Hence, while most of the team members are mechanical and electrical engineers, the team managers will also try to recruit members from other faculties like those of business, marketing and design.
This is because the challenge involves not only building the cars from scratch, but also coming up with the most practical as well as attractive design and finding the sponsors to help in financing the project.
Lo said that the eco-marathon is the perfect platform for exposing youth to making decisions and choices, which are part of the learning process.
“For eight years now, the regions’ brightest minds have come together to design, build and test their energy-efficient vehicles at the Shell Eco-marathon,” he said.
“I’m especially proud of our young Malaysian engineers and innovators who have showcased their tenacity and perseverance alongside their technical expertise to address the global need for cleaner energy.
“Year after year, we see them improving not just their designs, but also their confidence — after all, the competition puts more than their engineering capabilities on display.
“It harnesses their soft skills such as team leadership, marketing and communications, and business acumen as well.
“They also learn to work within the eco-system, like outsourcing tasks where necessary.”
UiTM Eco-Sprint manager Amirah Athirah Rohazam a final-year student of electrical/electronic manufacturing said that the competition had tested her team beyond their technical abilities.
“We managed to better our time by using a monocoque for our chassis that made our vehicle some 6kg lighter than last year’s,” she said.
“We knew that the UM team was going to be a strong competitor, so we made sure to get our vehicle inspected as early as possible, to avoid the longer wait later as more teams send theirs for inspection.
“Earlier testing also meant getting to the track earlier and so having more time for practice runs.”
Amirah said she wished more teams would take part to benefit from the competition like hers did.
“This project also served to push our management skills, which are useful non-technical proficiencies in our field,” she said.
“The current economic conditions have made getting funding more difficult, so it means we
Datuk Iain Lo (right) visiting Team UM Eco-Voyager, and chatting with manager S. Inthiran (second from right).
Four-time champion Team Eco-Sprint from
Amirah Athirah Rohazam