Sacramento State’s Hornet racing team made a strong showing in last week’s Formula SAE international competition in Lincoln, Neb.
“Out of 80 teams in the competition, we placed seventh for the design event,” says mechanical engineering Professor Aki Kumagai, the team’s faculty advisor. Kumagai was especially proud that the judges were so impressed by “the quality of our racing car.”
For the endurance race, the team competed among the top 27 fastest teams based on the auto-cross event. Sadly, the car broke down during the final lap, despite the driver’s efforts to finish.
Even so, Formula SAE is, as Kumagai says, “one of the most challenging collegiate technical competitions. The project covers almost all interdisciplinary engineering skills you can ever imagine to design and build a full-size racing car.” To finish among the top 10 percent in design is a crowning achievement for the talented students who worked so hard to improve on last year’s model.
“We dropped weight by 40 pounds, redesigned the rear suspension to a more widely accepted geometry for the judges, drastically improved driver ergonomics, and focused a little more on design-for-manufacture,” says team member Marcos Navarro.
The rear suspension geometry was redesigned so that the rear packaging (including the differential, frame members and engine) fit better, Navarro says. The front third of the frame was extended six inches to allow more room for the driver, and some noncritical members throughout the frame were taken out or replaced with lighter tubing.
This attention to detail epitomizes the commitment of Sac State engineering students, who for the past two decades have applied their diverse skills toward creating Formula SAE race cars. The development of those skills, learned in the classroom, dovetails with the University’s mission of preparing graduates for the workforce. The dozen or so students who stay the extracurricular course spend upward of 50 hours a week on the project.
“What they experience through this project is closest to what they will experience in the real engineering world,” Kumagai says.
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– Alan Miller