Engineering students go full throttle
Sura Khuder For the IC
In room 1031 of the North Engineering Building, members of the UT chapter of Formula Society of Automotive Engineers are hard at work designing what they hope will be the next world champion racecar.
The team takes concepts from their classes and applies it to the production of a formula one racecar from scrap material and takes it to competitions against teams from all over the world.
The team mission is to "gain a broader perspective of the engineering profession and to share acquired knowledge with peers and younger teammates."
Team members competed at Michigan International Speedway May 12 through the 14 and placed 12th in the world.
According to the SAE International Web site, the MIS competition is longest running and largest event and is considered by many as the "world championship of SAE."
"MIS has always been the competition. If you only went to one you'd go to MIS," said Riordan Hogan, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering technology.
Team members said cars are evaluated on design, budget, professionalism, manufacturing techniques and performance.
"You have to present [the car] to a panel of judges as if they were investors and convince them why they should invest in our car," said Lucas Kizer, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering.
The team has finished in the top ten five times in its 17-year span. Some of their most notable wins include an eighth place in 2007 and 12th place in 2008 at MIS. The team has also placed fifth at the 2007 FSAE competition in California.
The UT team is made up of ten members, all mechanical engineering majors and self-proclaimed car enthusiasts. The team is composed of specialized sub-teams that put together the car, and most members posses fluent knowledge in all aspects of producing the car.
The MIS competition prohibits the same car from being entered again in future races, causing teams to build new cars each year from scratch.
"Some years the cars are different and some years they are completely new. The past years have been a generation, [the cars] have progressively gotten better," Kizer said.
Car #43, the 2009-2010 model, reaches a top speed of 115 mph, with an acceleration of 0 to 60 meters per second squared in 4 seconds, according to Kizer.
The team spent about $9,000 on the production of the vehicle which, according to Riordan, is a small amount compared to other teams.
"We are probably one of the lowest budget teams," Hogan said. "We were talking with one team and they couldn't understand how anyone could build a car less than $125,000 a year."
The low budget has caused the team to take on a very simplistic approach to their design style such as reusing parts, but the lack of money hasn't discouraged them from making innovations to the car.
"It doesn't matter how much money you have, if you know what you're doing and you do it right," Kizer said.
Kizer said one new thing the team has done this year was data acquisition, which allows them to record everything that is going on in the in the car at any given moment. Data collected allows the team to make new designs and make specific changes to the car.
Team members said they have learned everything they know about racecar production from previous members, their courses, professors and countless hours spent studying.
"For everything I've learned in class what I've learned here is equally as important," Hogan said. "You're not going to have a course that's going to teach you how to do this."
Nick Eschhofen, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and leader of the FSAE team, said the level of work is comprehensive that upper-level classes are required to understand all the details behind the car.
Hogan said that one thing that the team has always considered is expanding to other programs outside of engineering, such as business administration, marketing, computer design and art.
The team said that although it may be easy to advertise in different colleges and departments, , the time commitment might discourage new members from joining.
"It's much more than [something] a group of us can explain to you, and you can go present it. From a business standpoint, you are a spokesperson for us. You have to become a part of this team." Eschhofen said. "It's always on the list but unfortunately it's always pushed to the back burner."
Most years, the team participates in two competitions a year, but last year Car #43 only competed at MIS, according to the team Web site.
Eschhofen said a goal for the formula one team is to start entering their designs in races unaffiliated with SAE.
"Instead of doing this just for one competition, it's other chances to get out there and race the car," he said.
Hogan said he would love to enter the team in international competitions such as one in Germany, but shipping the car overseas would be expensive.
Kizer said another thing they plan on doing in future years is using wireless data acquisition which would allow them to retrieve the data instantaneously instead of stopping the car and downloading information through a USB cable.
J.R. Galloway, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said most of the team has two years of experience and is now starting to realize what they need to do to win.
"We are stepping it up in everything," Hogan said. "In the years past, Toledo's always just wanted to do well, but we're tossing that out of the window. Let's win."
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