As all good things do, it started as a joke. Sometimes jokes get taken too far and that’s how I ended up in MAC 128 with a couple of others trying to figure out how to make Olin Clean Snowmobile possible. That’s how I ended up in a meeting room with admin figuring out the logistics. That’s how I ended up pitching this team to half the student body as if it was the hottest new P&M project. And like all P&M projects, you probably weren’t given much context as to what we’re really doing.
Olin Clean Snowmobile is a team that will modify an existing snowmobile to lower emissions and noise pollution. Contrary to popular belief, we will not be making an electric snowmobile, but we will be modifying a snowmobile with a diesel engine. Some modifications may look like redesigning the muffler system to utilize destructive interference, tuning the drivetrain, or designing a diesel particulate filter. This snowmobile will compete in the SAE Clean Snowmobile competition against other colleges and universities. To answer the most frequently asked question, yes, we’re serious about this, despite it all starting out as a joke.
In October 2022, a few of us who had joked about Olin Clean Snowmobile decided to try to do something to make it happen. We started to search for sponsors and put together a sponsorship packet. We started to plan for what projects the team would take on to achieve low pollution with the snowmobile. In November, we met with a winning team from Wisconsin to gain a better understanding of exactly what we were getting ourselves into. In December, we found ourselves in a conference room with a couple of faculty members pitching this project team. Before we formally started the meeting, one of them turned to us and said, “This is not a matter of if, but a matter of how.”
It was around that moment that I recognized how invested I was in this team. At some point in the process, Olin Clean Snowmobile became more than a joke. It was fulfilling the dream of the high school senior touring Olin thinking if there is any place to do something of any meaning, it’s this place. The one who accepted admission to the school with the belief that it was different than other schools in this way. It was showing the defeated first-year just starting classes that maybe there is something bigger than going through the motions with classes and clubs. Maybe, just maybe, my past self was onto something with this place. Doing something, as any honorable Oliner is meant to do, felt incredible.
It all came to a screeching halt just before spring break. We received the email we dreaded, the email we always knew might end up in our inbox, but it felt increasingly less likely as time went on. Olin Clean Snowmobile couldn’t happen. Not due to a lack of funding, a lack of interest, or a lack of faculty support. It was due to a lack of space.
Sometimes this school is too small for the growing dreams of the student body. The mere five buildings on the campus cannot always contain the hopes we have. Space is not an easy thing to come by and it isn’t something I necessarily expect to change. But at some point, something has to give. If there is no room to grow, then growth can’t happen. If students hear enough times that their attempts to “do something” simply aren’t possible, then won’t they stop trying?
I still, perhaps foolishly, believe that the mentality of “it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of how” still exists at Olin. Maybe because if Olin is really all that I want to believe it is, it has to.