Race cars and college students work well together, and that's just what's happening at the EcoCar 3 competition.

The Advanced Vehicle Competition challenges students to innovate their way to safer and more efficient vehicles. Coming up with innovative ways to modify a sophisticated new car takes a lot of brain power – just what the sponsors of the EcoCar 3 competition are hoping to find.

"What we're looking to do is really develop the next generation of automotive engineers," said Jim Kolhoff, General Motors.

Teams from 16 North American universities took the challenge, and this is just the development phase. They're whipping up what's called Advanced Vehicle Technology for a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro.

"We're trying to reduce petroleum energy usage from our series generator by predicting route and speed of the driver,” said Brian Magnuson, University of Washington.

Putting their ideas into practice means they'll get to tear one of these project cars apart under the watchful eye of a factory engineer.

"We've tried to present the students the real world challenges that we see, the balance of functionality and cost and consumer friendliness, and they've really come up with some exciting ideas in that area,” Kolhoff said.

These young engineers could very well come up with innovations that could save lives for the next generation.

"There are lots of things that you can do with something like this to try and help the driver out while they're driving,” said Jonathan Moscardini, McMaster University. “You can start identifying with the board, stop signs, pedestrians, road lines, anything like that."

The winning team gets a $10,000 cash prize. The competition is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors.