Frazee native is a senior at North Dakota State

Contributed photo
Team Captain Brett Gildersleeve, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Frazee, led his NDSU team to a second place finish at the annual Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

A team of North Dakota State University engineering students received several honors at the 2024 SAE International Clean Snowmobile Challenge in Houghton, Michigan. The NDSU team placed second out of 13 teams overall, earning first place for in-service emissions, first place in objective handling and first place for their design paper and presentation with the first perfect score in the history of the competition.

During the annual Clean Snowmobile Challenge student teams from around the country design and build a snowmobile to be more fuel efficient, emissions friendly and quiet. They then compete in a variety of events including emissions, noise, fuel economy/endurance, acceleration, handling, static display, cold start and design.

It’s an opportunity for students to enhance their engineering design and project management skills by applying classroom theories to real-world problems. They also get the chance to engage with industry professionals to understand modern applications, build their network, and prepare for the workforce after graduation.

“The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is an engineering event. It covers everything a typical engineer in industry does daily. We have to figure out what our budget looks like, task lists, needed parts and resources. Then we identify the problems start coming up with possible solutions and conceptual designs,” said team captain Brett Gildersleeve, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering from Frazee. “The team evaluates the designs and makes decisions to pursue them or other options. Industry follows the same process in coming up with new products and solutions to problems. Going through this process as a student gives us a feel for what to expect as a career.”

“The Clean Snowmobile Competition can prepare you for your future career in too many ways to count. Some of the most important skills that employers are looking for, communication, punctuality, problem solving and leadership, can be acquired through this team and competition,” said team captain Ryan McCormick, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Aitkin, Minnesota. “Not to mention the countless skills that can be learned through the hands-on work with the snowmobile such as welding, fabrication, and CAD. These are what can really set someone apart from other job applicants and greatly increase the odds of landing a high demand position.”

The NDSU Clean Snowmobile team is one the hundreds of student teams, organizations and clubs available at NDSU, including more than 30 connected to the College of Engineering.

“One thing prospective students should know about NDSU is the many opportunities to grow and learn that are available. There are many clubs and organizations besides the Clean Snowmobile Team that can prepare you for future careers in similar ways. There is something for everyone here, and I would encourage new students to join a club that interests them,” McCormick said.

“I would say Clean Snow has been my best experience while attending college at NDSU,” added Gildersleeve. “Being in this organization has given me all the resources I need to be successful not only in my future career but also in life.”

The team is already working on their designs and plans for next season with eyes on bringing a championship back to Fargo.

“We’ve decided to switch from a four-stroke snowmobile to a two-stroke snowmobile. We have calculated the results and believe that the two-stroke can score more points and perform better at the competition,” Gildersleeve said.

“I plan on building off the sound testing knowledge I gained this season to create new modifications,” McCormick added. “As of now, I plan on designing a new exhaust system that reduces noise and weight at the same time. I also plan on learning how to use simulation software to test different models before going through the fabrication process.”

Other team members this year included Blake Higgins, Nathan Klimek, Anders Grimsgard, Ashton Schlosser, Mason Kalnbach, Blake Hagen, Blake Earnst, Carter Lommel, Jackson Graham, Reid Hultman, and Wyatt Sauber.