“Everything was designed, manufactured, assembled and tested within a five-month period of evenings and weekends by students with full class schedules or co-op jobs off campus.”
The Kettering University EV Kartz team earned multiple awards this year at the annual evGrandPrix in West Lafayette, Indiana, giving the team its best-ever finish.
The competition, which took place April 14-15, featured 15 teams that designed and built electric go-karts for the race.
Kettering earned first place in the engineering design category and was named the most technologically advanced team. Overall, the University finished second and placed third in the 50-lap head-to-head kart race.
“It was incredibly validating to perform well at the competition,” said Henry Grasman (’24, CE). “All the hard work over the last six months was well worth it.”
The team’s lead electrical engineer Jonathan Larr agreed.
“It was a great feeling to see us place well in the race and to be recognized for our unique engineering design,” he said.
Larr, an electrical engineering graduate student, and Kenton Kyger (‘23, ME/EE), the team’s mechanical lead, credited Grasman’s driving skills as part of the win.
“I am blown away that we were not only able to build a kart that was competitive, but also Henry, the driver, was able to hold his own against more experienced drivers,” Larr said.
Kyger was also surprised by Grasman’s driving skills.
“Even though he didn’t have the opportunity to get much seat time in our go-kart before the competition, he put up a very good fight and finished on the podium,” Kyger said.
In addition to driving the kart during the race, Grasman also was a firmware engineer and handled the embedded controls for the main controller and battery management system.
“We decided to design and build custom components for everything we could, and as a result, our kart was very experimental,” Grasman said. “We had many concerns about whether or not we would be competitive with the larger motors other teams used in particular. Once we assembled the kart and began testing on the MRC (Mobility Research Center), all of those concerns went away.”
However, the team did hit a couple of bumps in the road. Overall, time was a factor.
“As of late October 2022, nothing had been completed on the go-kart,” Kyger said. “Everything was designed, manufactured, assembled and tested within a five-month period of evenings and weekends by students with full class schedules or co-op jobs off campus.”
During the build, the team struggled to get the battery management system to communicate with the 13 boards responsible for monitoring the battery temperature and voltages.
“We spent multiple weeks and a handful of all-nighters trying to find a solution,” Grasman said. “Once we did, everything else worked smoothly.”
At the qualifying race, the brake system locked up.
“The whole team worked together and fixed it just before the final race,” said Dr. Chen Duan, team advisor.
He said he was proud of the team’s accomplishments. Regarding the results, Duan said he was surprised but not too surprised.
“I know this is not an easy project; anything could happen until the last minute,” he said. “For example, there was one kart from another team that caught on fire on Friday, and a few other go-karts had issues during the race, so they had to pull themselves out of the game. So I am really impressed that we did it! On the other hand, I’m not surprised as I know our team put a lot of effort and time into this to make sure everything was secured.”
Automotive supplier Valeo donated a 48-volt iBSG4 motor with an innovative integrated inverter to the team.
“We are grateful to Valeo for the motor and the company’s involvement with the team,” said Dr. Scott Grasman, Dean of the College of Engineering at Kettering. “The students appreciate the experience of working with this type of equipment and engineering support from Valeo throughout the process.”
Jonathan Rost, Valeo Powertrain Research and Development Director, also attended the race to support the team.
“Congratulations to Kettering University’s EV Kartz Team! We are really impressed with the engineering design work that went into creating the powertrain system and the collaborative approach the students took to achieve their goals,” Rost said. “Valeo values ongoing education, mentorship and generational diversity in the workplace. The opportunity to assist the upcoming generation of engineers falls in line with who we are as an organization.”
About 15 students are part of the team, but it has room for more because Grasman said next year’s plan is to develop a second vehicle and compete with two teams.
“This is a great opportunity for students to design and develop their own vehicle,” Duan said. “When they dive deep into this, they will find there are a lot of details and challenges they need to address.”