Formula SAE competition moves to Lincoln; new UNL team builds a formula-style race car
CHALLENGE: The UNL Formula SAE Team is starting from scratch, said team leader TiLong Nguyen, but eager to represent Nebraska—especially as a major Formula SAE race moves to Lincoln in 2012. Most new teams plan a two-year build, he said, but "we are a first-year team with 18 months until we race, so it’s pretty ambitious. We are now designing the car and plan to have a full, finalized 3-D model in Solidworks this summer. We’ll build the car this fall and test it beginning in early 2012. Our ultimate goal is to build a formula car that is simple and reliable yet competitive. We would like to have our car complete all of the events at competition, which is a tall order for most veteran universities."
PARTNER ORGANIZATION: The competition is sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. UNL’s Formula SAE Team is working with local sponsors and automotive-related companies to apply resources and best practices.
THE BIG EVENT: Circle June 2012 on your calendar! Lincoln Airpark is the location, with 90 continuous acres of concrete to house the FSAE courses, team paddocks and support facilities. (The former site was in California.)
TEAM: includes: Bill Dick, faculty adviser; Jay Steinman, Powertrain Lead; Ryan Arens, Brakes Lead; TiLong Nguyen, Team Lead; Royce Hocij, Chassis Lead; and Josh Rhodig, Suspension Lead.
WHAT YOU LEARN / HOW IT HELPS YOU: Nguyen, a senior mechanical engineering student, said the Formula SAE experience teaches participants "how to work with a team of engineers, for skills like group communication. The project stresses real-world capabilities, such as meeting deadlines, and technological skills in design and manufacturing. It’s especially good for exploring what’s not always learned in the classroom. Lots of engineering companies want university graduates to be better at practical skills as well as theory, and this effort allows students to get their hands dirty and understand the whole process.”
HOW DOES THE TEAM PREPARE? "I’ve set a timeline, with deadlines for the team," Nguyen said. "The RD phase is in progress, and we’re deciding what parts we can machine ourselves versus what we need to purchase. We’ve visited a couple of university Formula SAE teams (for example, Kansas State—an established team—showed us around their shop and discussed their past cars, as well as what to expect and, if there’s failure, how to deal with that. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) hosts autocross events where Formula SAE teams test out cars prior to competition."
WHAT THRILLS AND INTIMIDATES YOU ABOUT THE COMPETITION? "We’ll be representing Nebraska as its first Formula SAE team," Nguyen said. "While we’re just starting out, it’s exciting to be able to compete and make a name for ourselves. Best of all would be the whole experience—how engineering students can come together and build a car from the ground up. As the team leader, I know I need to light a fire: inspire and motivate the team to get their work done this summer; when fall comes and more people join us we’ll be ready."
"Since we’ve never done this before, there’s risk," said Nguyen. "We know that 60-70% of FSAE teams don’t finish all the events, and we’re up against veteran teams like Michigan FSAE: celebrating their 25th anniversary with more than $200,000 invested in their car this year. But seeing all these other teams gives kind of a David and Goliath feeling that’s pushing us."
LEARN MORE at http://go.unl.edu/formulasae