Formula SAE Recap 5/27/14

Updates from Kevin Krakauer, VP Spartan Racing

I'd like to thank [the department] again on behalf of the team for assisting the Formula SAE team with rescheduling finals to allow us to travel and compete. We've been posting quite a bit on our Facebook page, but I've also compiled for you a summary of our travels and competition results. This trip for me included the 7th and 8th consecutive competitions I've attended, and I think they've been the two most positive for our team. Increasing the number of competitions on our itinerary offers the chance for students to learn faster, and boosts our international exposure.

We first arrived in Detroit after tornado delays diverted us to various other cities in the midwest. Once regrouped, we drove to the cabins in Brooklyn, Michigan, which are about ten minute from Michigan International Speedway. The car was admitted through tech inspection, the prerequisite to competing in dynamic events, without needing modifications. This is not the case for many teams, but thoroughly reading our 160 page rulebook and running through preliminary inspections was a team goal this year to save us time and give the correct impression that SJSU is an experienced team. In the pits we were neighbored by Hawks Racing of Hamburg, Germany, and Equipe Fórmula FEI of São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, both of whom were friendly and talked to us quite a bit. We were also visited in Michigan by alumni Randy Floresca of General Motors, who is heavily involved with SAE International, and Joey Penniman of Tesla Motors, who volunteered as a tech inspector. Despite very poor weather, we were able to compete strongly and achieve an 8th place finish in autocross (~2 minute lap). The final event, endurance (~30 minute race, 20+ laps), is run in reverse order, meaning the fastest cars in autocross run last. Because of this, SR-6 was on track with the fastest FSAE cars in the world. As a 4+ year member who has always looked up at top-ranked teams like Stuttgart and Oregon State as in a completely different league, it was amazing to see our car on track with the best of them. We finished 15th overall, our highest placement in Michigan by 7 places, and received an award for one of the top seven three-view drawings.

After the competition in Michigan concluded, three of our students drove north to attend the Optimum G applied vehicle dynamics seminar on their own dollar to learn more about race vehicle dynamics over a four day period. The rest of the team traveled directly to Toronto, stripped and rebuilt the vehicle in an evening, and tested over the next two days near the shore of Lake Ontario. We were hosted by the University of Toronto Formula SAE team, who provided us access to their shop, testing area, and dorms. After two days in Toronto, we drove an hour or so north to Barrie, Ontario, to set up for competition. We were the first team on site and talked to the organizers for a few hours while unpacking the car from its crate and reassembling it.

Formula North is an event that was organized three years ago by alumni who wanted a competition that allowed Canadian companies access to motivated engineering students, a benefit that is afforded to U.S. automakers and engineering firms in Michigan and Lincoln. However, the North organizers have been very welcoming to American teams to boast the international aspect of this type of competition, and facilitate networking between engineers from different corners of the globe. Of note, our team was recognized for traveling the furthest to compete in Barrie. We were approached by the North organizers in October because our social media presence had gained their attention, and they wanted teams from further away to compete. 48 hours later, after discussion among our leads, we registered for several reasons:

•The opportunity to test international logistics before potentially competing in Germany in the next five years
•Expedited training and more competition experience for new members
•Increased exposure for potential sponsorship
•Fostering reputation as a friendly, competitive, motivated team
•More networking opportunities for students
•The opportunity to collect race data on a different track surface
•Good life experience traveling abroad for team members

Those reasons among others seemed sufficient to warrant an extension of our Michigan trip. The team was not able to afford the additional registration cost, so I covered it with my own money to offer the opportunity to the team. I could not be happier with the decision:

Having gained experience the week before in Michigan in addition to building a generally reliable car, we were able to do very well at Formula North. We placed top eight in all events, and second place overall. This is the highest placement and highest percentile in which we've finished since the team formed six years ago. We were also admitted to design finals, which is a second round of design evaluation where judges from different Universities and industries question students on their designs, data, and validation procedures for two full hours. Four teams were admitted to finals, and San Jose State was the only one of the four from the U.S. We placed third behind L'École de technology supérieure of Montréal and Université Laval of Québec City, both of which are international powerhouse teams. SJSU was repeatedly stated to have the most polished fit and finish by everyone from fellow competitors up to the lead design judge, which made us feel pretty good. North was a valuable experience technically, with more time for new members to network and learn about other teams' designs and how the competition is run, and in terms of life experience since for many it was the first time they'd gone abroad.

The team is returning to San Jose today to prepare for remaining finals, and we're coming back with a large cargo of experience in addition to our new awards. We look forward to returning to Lincoln, Nebraska next month to complete our 2014 competition schedule after some additional testing and analysis of the data we've collected on this trip. As the team member with the longest tenure, I am thrilled with the progress I've seen and been a part of since I first wandered into the shop in 2010; further, I'm happy to receive acknowledgment and support from you and other COE faculty and staff, which is a huge motivational boost for us down in the shop. Finally, as a graduating senior, I am confident that the project is in good hands and will continue to benefit the students who are passionate about their engineering work.

Thanks again for the support and we are excited to share more pictures and stories when we return home.

Results recap:
•15th overall of 126 registered teams at Formula SAE Michigan
•2nd overall of 28 registered teams at Formula North
•World ranking jump of 59 places to 56th of 509 teams
 
For more pictures, please visit our Facebook page.