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ODU Opens Motor Sports Engineering Lab at VIR

Old Dominion University officially introduced a new era in engineering education with the recent opening of its high-tech Virginia Institute for Performance Engineering and Research (VIPER), located at Virginia International Raceway in Alton.

"Dreamers need doers; and to that, ODU is a partner in what is truly a team effort," said Oktay Baysal, dean of the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology during the April 25 ceremony. Attending the event were higher education faculty, state government officials, business leaders and representatives from all ranges of the automotive industry.

The 3,400-square-foot facility, which will be operated in conjunction with Virginia Tech, will have classroom, shop and office space, and a chassis dynamometer for measuring wheel horsepower, among other features. According to Baysal, the institute will help to attract more economic investment to southwest Virginia. Students will use the facility on weekdays, and it will be rented out to race teams during the weekend.

Starting with the fall 2008 semester, VIPER will accept engineering motor sports students who have progressed from coursework at community colleges to the New College Institute in Martinsville, or who have studied at other state or regional higher education institutions.

"A number of graduates have gone on to the motor sports industry and we hope for many more," said Steve Southward, VIPER technical director and professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech. "This provides a means to attract even more great students to our area."

VIPER also will be the site of testing and evaluation for alternative fuels, specifically algae-based biodiesel that is being produced by ODU and the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium. The new lab's instrumentation and testing capabilities will be used to validate fuel performance and develop engine technologies. The hope is that this will lead to the production of highly efficient engines that can run on biodiesel fuel consistently. Having already successfully tested the fuel in remote-controlled cars, the next step for ODU researchers is to test their product in full-sized engines.

"Let's transform America from energy dependent to energy independent," said U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), who attended the opening.

This article was posted on: May 4, 2008

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