Malaysia’s eco-marathon­ers in their own league

New Straits Times - - Higher Ed - Ocyeoh@nst.com.my

O.C. YEOH

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

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