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ASU Formula SAE Team gears up for automotive competition

The Arizona State SAE Team is gearing up for this year's national competition with high hopes and one very fast race car. The Society of Automotive Engineers is an international organization of engineering students and engineers that gives the teams a set of regulations with which they have to build a competitive race car. 

Building a race car from the ground up may seem impossible, especially for the average college student, but for members of ASU’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers constructing cars is an annual endeavor.

The ASU Formula SAE team is gearing up for an automotive competition next June, spending their Saturdays welding, fabricating and printing 3D parts for their race car. Although the team participated in the competition in previous years, this year the team is focused on learning and improving.

Steven Trimble, mechanical and aerospace engineering practicing professor, is an adviser for the team and said the primary focus of the Formula SAE competition is to give engineering students hands-on experience in designing and building a vehicle. 

“It’s a very demanding competition,” Trimble said.

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The competition in Lincoln, Nebraska will consist of three days of challenges. On the first day, the team will present a business plan to judges marketing the car, where it will also be technically inspected and reviewed based on its construction and design.

The second day the car will be put through a series of tests to show its capabilities and overall functionality. 

The final day will showcase the car’s endurance. The car will have to do 24 laps of a track and remain intact. 

Trimble said the team of engineers hasn’t placed in the contest yet, but after failing to complete the competition last year due to a malfunction, he said the team came back fired up and ready to construct a car from scratch. 

“That’s what is different this year,” Trimble said. “We really want to take a step higher in preparing for the competition and emphasize the engineering that goes into the car.”

Trimble said this year the team dynamic is different.

“We aren’t shooting for winning the whole competition, and we might not place in the top,” Trimble said. “But I am really proud of this team. They are very dedicated and very intent on using what they’ve learned in the classroom and applying it to actually designing the car."

Mechanical engineering senior Wesley Kudela, ASU Formula’s chief engineer, said the goals for this year are all about building upon last year’s performance. 

“I am focused on building an effective team, that can design and produce a competitive car that places higher at competition each year we compete,” Kudela said. 

Kudela said the experience member’s get designing and manufacturing a vehicle is immeasurable.

“All of us, myself included, will get hands on real world experience applying the engineering principals we learn in school by building this car,” Kudela said. “It allows everyone to get used to being part of a business style organization that operates like a real company. It doesn't get more real than this.”

Christopher Wilkes, supervisor for a structure shop within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, is also helping the team by teaching welding techniques and simplifying their design. Wilkes spends his Saturdays with the group — lending his free time, workshop space and years of expertise. 

Wilkes said that last year the group reached out to him for last minute welding help. He decided to assist the team again this year to help them better prepare for the competition.

“One of my frustrations throughout my career was the engineers that I worked with didn’t care to learn the hands-on aspects of building a car,” Wilkes said. “The more they get hands on experience, the more competent they’ll be as engineers.”

Wilkes said the team has limited work space, money and tools.

“If I can help out with that in any way, I’m more than happy to,” Wilkes said.

The team plans to finish constructing the car by January so they can test its capabilities and make improvements before the competition in June, something they were unable to do last year.

Wilkes said the team has a goal to complete the base of the vehicle by homecoming on Nov. 14.

“It’s kind of a tight deadline,” Wilkes laughed. “There’s quite a bit to be done.”

Related Links:

ASU's Baja Team prepares for upcoming national competition

New initiative strives to increase minority representation in the Fulton Schools of Engineering

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