Not just another day in the car shop

2011-06-06T08:00:00Z Not just another day in the car shopBy GAIL COLE, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times

OSU’s SAE Formula racecar team works hard to win big

The formula-one racecar designed and built this year by Oregon State University’s Formula SAE Global Formula Racing team has fared well this year; it took first place at the Formula SAE national competition at the Michigan International Speedway in May. The team also took first place in the same competition last year.

But before they leave for competitions in England and Austria later this summer, the team hopes to win Formula SAE’s other national competition on June 15 to 18 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where they’ll be judged not only on the 20 kilometer race course but also on individual categories like acceleration and make business and design presentations.

If they succeed, they’ll be the only team in the more than 30-year history of Formula SAA, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, to win both U.S. competitions back-to-back.

But before they head to California, the 56 students on OSU’s team will prep the car for competition by replacing parts — including the vehicle’s engine — conducting basic maintenance, making 16 practice runs and making sure the car is in good working order. It’s a feat not as easy as it sounds.

“There’s still quite a bit of work that needs to be done,” said team captain Jeff Delaney, looking on while members of the team were busy working on the car Wednesday at the team shop in Rogers Hall.

With the competition now less than two weeks away, Delaney and the team are prepared for some all-nighters to get the job done.

“I’ve been here since 7 a.m. Tuesday,” Delaney said. “You learn how to not need sleep.”

But it’s all in a day’s — and night’s — work for Global Formula Racing.

Though competition is on their minds, the team is also learning lessons on problem solving, communication, working with sponsors, design and construction, plus international collaboration, a skill gaining importance in many areas of engineering.

The team is gaining an edge on the latter, thanks to the collaboration with Germany’s Duale Hochschule Baden-Wurttemberg-Ravensburg; this year, the two schools split design and construction tasks on the two cars: one with a combustion engine used for the Michigan and California competitions, and one with an electric motor used mostly by the German university.

The team also connects with the professional world by working with companies whose sponsorships essentially fund the car project; Delaney estimates the 303 pound, carbon-bodied combustion car is made of about $100,000 worth of materials.

Faculty advisor Robert Paasch, a Boeing professor of mechanical engineering, said working with businesses to develop sponsorship deals, even non-automotive companies such as Hewlett-Packard and window and door manufacturer Jeld-Wen, is hugely beneficial for the students, who end up getting jobs with them. Paasch even said more and more racing companies are contacting him to refer their job openings to OSU students.

Although OSU’s team members are mostly engineering students, with 33 using the car project as the focus of their senior design project, they represent several types of majors, from mechanical engineering to industrial and manufacturing engineering to electrical engineering to business and even new media communications. The range in academic backgrounds makes their teamwork more realistic to what they’ll do in the professional world.

“It’s really building up a skill set students don’t learn inside the classroom,” Delaney said. “We try to run a small business.“

But with practical engineering and business management skills in tow, it’s hard to forget about the thrill of competition, and the team is confident they will do well in California.

“We don’t have any weaknesses; we’re strong in every area,” Paasch said.

Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or gail.cole@gazettetimes.com.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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