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Monday | 03 October, 2011 | 9:31 am

Race to the finish

By Julie Sammarco

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Race to the finish

A race car design and manufacturing competition gives students a head start

 

October 2011 - Participating in Formula SAE can mean the difference between landing a dream job in the automotive industry or not. The kind of management, design and technical training engineering students receive from this program gives them a leg up in an industry that is demanding more skilled workers than ever before.

 

Formula SAE is an international collegiate competition targeted primarily to engineering students who want to develop their engineering and project management skills. The concept behind the competition is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car.
Why is this competition so important to the automotive industry? One word: prestige.

 

“If you want to work seriously in the automotive industry in the United States, to be seriously considered, you have to have Formula SAE experience,” says Steve Daum, manager of collegiate programs at Formula SAE. “We’ve been running this event for 31 years. In that time, we’ve built a great reputation. Major automotive and aerospace companies come to Formula SAE to recruit the top young engineers.”

 

One reason Formula SAE competitors are so highly sought after is because of the hands-on metalworking
and team-management experience they get during the process.

 

“Students are doing hands-on metalworking,” says Daum. “The key members [of each student team] perform the actual hands-on work of fabricating the components from raw materials or subcomponents through the use of one or more of the fabrication processes including but not limited to bonding, casting, cutting, curing, drilling, hardening, laminating, machining, polishing, riveting and welding.”

 

A couple of teams build their own engines, which are typically motorcycle engines.

 

Once a team has submitted documentation and has permission to enter its proposed vehicle into a Formula SAE competition, it can begin manufacturing the vehicle—all the while documenting every design and material decision the team chooses. Once the car passes inspection on the day of the competition, team members make a management presentation, during which they convince the judges to buy their plan and produce their vehicle. After that, there is a design presentation where teams explain their design choices.

This competition gives teams a high degree of freedom in terms of design creation, but highly detailed guidelines and rules are in place.

 

These rules apply to every college that enters the competition. “Some of the German and British and Australian teams are very good,” says Daum. “But we create our rules so that each team is on an equal playing field. So MIT can compete with a smaller engineering school that has only had a program up and running for a few years.”

 

Winning first place in such a highly acclaimed competition must come with some monetary prize or trophy. But it doesn’t. The grand prize is bragging rights and the hope that the hard work will pay off in the future, which in many cases, it does.

 

“I know students get recruited at the competition,” says Daum. “If not there, it’s an absolutely fantastic and necessary resume booster if you want to work in the industry—cars, motorcycles, airplanes or spacecrafts.”
The next Formula SAE competition will take place at the Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich., May 9-12, 2012. Other competitions are held throughout the year across the globe.

 

For more information on Formula SAE, visit http://students.sae.org/competitions/formulaseries. FFJ

Last modified on Thursday | 23 February, 2012 | 11:20 am

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