JMU Supermileage win the Safety Award in the 2020 Americas Off-Tracks with an entry which exemplifies the values and attention to detail required in the real world to ensure safety every step of the way.

About the Safety Award

The Safety Award highlights the importance of design, road, and behavioral safety in the Shell Eco-marathon program and encourages all teams to consider and implement safe practices in their daily work. It challenges teams to inspect tools and equipment and review established practices, procedures, and vehicle design in order to implement changes which lead to higher safety standards.

What they achieved

The team applied their learnings from past experiences to develop safety standards for the 2020 season, appointing a safety officer and collectively creating a list of rules to be strictly followed in their campus workspace to ensure that all vehicle choices were made to maximize efficiency without compromising safety.

“Safety is the number one priority. We’d rather sacrifice our outcomes if that means taking our time to do the work right and safely.”

JMU Supermileage’s safety precautions and procedures included four categories: workplace safety, manufacturing safety, vehicle design safety, and road safety.

  • Workplace safety: The team appointed a safety officer who enforced team rules while they were in the workspace. They also aligned on roles that were to be carried out at Sonoma Raceway to avoid the paddock area becoming overcrowded during the competition. 
  • Manufacturing safety: JMU Supermileage is fortunate to have multiple engineering facilities on campus and relied on team members who were part-time employees to safely handle pieces of equipment while keeping other members safe.
  • Vehicle design safety: The team studied diligently to choose the proper chassis frame design and body material for the 2020 competition. They performed multiple calculations and tests to build a vehicle that would remain stable around turns. 
  • Road safety: Keeping the team’s driver and other competitors safe was top priority. Both the primary and back-up drivers were fully knowledgeable about the competition rules, and the team installed safety equipment on the vehicle to ensure it runs as safely as possible.

True to Shell’s own values, the JMU team made safety a top priority and from the start agreed it would be an essential factor to the success of their project.

“At the end of the day we don’t want anyone to be hurt due to our engineering project, and as engineers it is our obligation to ensure everything is safe.”

What obstacles were faced along the way?

The team’s preparations for the 2020 season were not without challenges, however, and troubleshooting issues became a theme as they built their vehicle. But the team found success through perseverance, teamwork and by applying practical solutions they had learned in the classroom. These included transferring expensive parts from other systems into their vehicle and taking systems apart into separate components so they could trace connections and functions.

Through the students’ diligent approach, organizational skills, resourcefulness and consistency, the team exemplified the values and attention to detail required in the real world to ensure safety at every step of the way.

What inspired the team to succeed?

For one team member, it was a father’s passion for cars, the beauty of “tinkering,” and the importance of a never-give-up attitude which inspired him to take part. The JMU network played an equally important role as the team’s faculty advisers, Dr. Robert Nagel and Dr. Robert Prins shared their knowledge while encouraging students to find solutions on their own. Team members also met with JMU alums who returned to the to share their experiences and successes in the competition.

Why the judges believed they deserve to win?

"JMU Supermileage demonstrated a compelling commitment to the daily safety practices. The team appointed a safety officer and collectively created lists of rules to strictly follow in their workspace at campus. All choices made for vehicle design were made for efficiency but without compromising safety, and keeping the driver and other competitors safe was their first priority."

Lead Judge: Gilles Vanier, Technical Director Shell Eco-marathon, Shell

Advice for future Shell Eco-marathon participants

  • Stay organized, document everything, and think of any possible scenario.
  • Utilize resources at hand whether it be previous documentation or faculty, do your research but don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Stay consistent in your work, put in as much effort at the beginning as you do at the end and it will lead to success.

Learn more about the winning team

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