FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP - A group of scientists in Graz, Austria, is interested in making snowmobiles quieter and cleaner, so it turned to the Internet for more information.
They came across the Society of Automotive Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge at Michigan Technological University, held in the Keweenaw, and opted to make the trip to see what the students can build.
"We are actually interested in the Zero Emissions category," said Johannes Haas, from FH Joanneum, University of Applied Sciences, who was accompanied by another scientist from the university.
The grand opening event for the Clean Snowmobile Challenge was held Tuesday at the Keweenaw Research Center at Michigan Tech. Haas made the trip from Austria to see what the dozens of student-built clean snowmobiles could do.
"We have an issue at ski resorts where snowmobiles, especially for mountain rescue, are too noisy, are smelly and are interfering with tourism," he said.
That's when Haas turned to the Internet to learn about building cleaner and quieter snowmobiles. After not finding much of anything in Europe, he turned to the United States where he found the Clean Snowmobile Challenge.
"We found the Zero Emissions category and we just love the openness of all the teams and the organizers," he said.
Haas sent an email asking if he could attend the event, and flew in immediately for the event.
"We got enthusiastic mails back," he said. "So here we are now."
Haas spent Tuesday watching the events, including the Endurance Run and the 40 loops around the KRC track. They hope to build a prototype in 2013 based on what they learn in the Keweenaw. He also had the chance to interact with students, organizers and sponsors.
"We have not had the chance yet, in our entire lives, to experience an electric snowmobile," he said. "This is a great thing to take back to Austria."