Formula SAE Builds Fast Cars and Strong TeamworkOn October 17, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
[MUSIC] –Formula SAE is basically an engineering design team. We design, manufacture, test, and then race an open-wheel internal combustion engine car against other teams from around the nation and around the world. The summer is basically design phase. We design the suspension points of the car. The chassis is designed around those suspension points. From there, all the other subteams design their components, so powertrain designs the intake, design the oil system, design the cooling system, and then you have drivetrain designing how the power is transferred from the engine to the wheels. Electronics designs the control systems for the car. And then you have composites and aero basically designing all the bodywork, and the various aerodynamics that go on the car. –We got in contact with Ford. Ford was very kind and they were nice enough to allow us a certain amount of time to test in their wind tunnel. We were so excited for this opportunity! We planned out so many tests ahead of time: changing angle of attack of some parts, to removing parts, putting new parts on that we were testing, trying to determine where we should take our design next. We can test that all day in theory, but until we actually take it to the wind tunnel and test that it’s actually doing what it’s supposed to do, we have no idea. –After the design phase is completed, we move into the manufacturing phase, which essentially, everyone starts manufacturing the parts that they designed. For chassis, for instance, that’s jigging and then welding. Powertrain, they got an intake recently, which is 3D-printed from our sponsor, Realize. Aero works very much in tandem with composites. Carbon fiber is light and strong. A lighter car means faster lap times, better handling and those types of things. We take the car out. The first thing we probably do is a shakedown, just kind of run the car, then we can start going through acceleration runs, skidpad runs, then we start doing lap times, and basically just tuning the car for best handling, and just learning how it operates. We have a very large trailer that we shove the car in, and basically all of our tools in the shop, too. We go to Michigan International Speedway. The first thing they do when we get there is basically a tech inspection. And then after that, the car’s good, and we got all the tech inspection stickers, then we’re good to compete in dynamic events. That’s the biggest test of the car. Only about half the teams finish. So essentially you do 10 laps, have a 3-minute driver change, then do 10 more laps. And then, it’s over, if you can finish it all. And then you do fuel economy, which they measure how much gas is left in the tank. It is amazing driving it, because you know that a team of students built this. Having it all manufactured and coming together, and then the car actually running, that’s obviously just a bolt of excitement. The biggest challenge to overcome is definitely balancing schoolwork with the Formula SAE work. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, we come in and we work all day, sometimes all night, working on this car. So we definitely have a large passion for it. –Formula is really just about the team experience, and it’s about working with a lot of people from a lot of different majors and disciplines. –The work is really hard, it’s challenging and it is rewarding. But the best part is probably getting to spend time with people, because you know, we’re all weird engineers, and so we have a lot of fun together. And everybody wants to be here. You don’t have to show up, it’s a club. But everyone wants to be here and wants to commit to it. –To do this kind of stuff, you really got to have a passion. You really get to apply your knowledge from class, and you get to kind of figure out stuff on your own, which is really a lot of fun. It’s really all about how much you put into it, and then that’s what you get out of it.