The UC Davis Formula Racing team took third place overall, against stiff international competition, at the annual Formula SAE Electric Competition, held June 18-21, 2014 at the Lincoln Airpark, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Brazil’s Universidade Estadual de Campinas came in first, with Canada’s McGill University taking second, making the Aggie engineers the highest-placing U.S. entry, well in front of competitive teams from Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, Purdue, UC Irvine, and others.
“This was an impressive achievement by our students,” noted Dave MacKinnon, Director of Facilities and Safety at the College of Engineering at UC Davis. “Our team accomplished this during a year when the student engineers pursued a full, from-the-ground-up re-design and fabrication of every system in the vehicle, rather than simply recycling elements fabricated by previous years’ teams, as often has been done in the past. This included an entirely new chassis, suspension, battery system, power train, steering and control system.”
The event results proved particularly gratifying to the UC Davis engineers, on several levels. “We’re the first North American team ever to advance beyond technical inspection in the Formula SAE Electric Division,” noted team member Lucas Bolster.
Along with Universidade Estadual de Campinas and McGill, UC Davis was one of only three teams — from a field of 20 competitors — to complete the grueling 12km endurance event. The Aggies also placed in the Top 10 in all other divisions: Cost, Design and Presentation (achieving fifth place in the latter).
“Our team began the endurance event with a fried dashboard,” Bolster confessed. “This meant the driver had no information about battery capacity or temperature. With the environment in the 35-40C range, and a battery shutdown temp of 55C, we decided to take a conservative pace, to ensure our finish. It paid off!”
“Engineering is a collaborative enterprise,” notes Michael R. Hill, a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. “This achievement results from outstanding efforts by the team of students, supported by many great contributions from faculty and staff throughout the College of Engineering, including my colleagues Roland Williams in MAE, and Andre Knoesen in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and most particularly the hard-working staff at our Engineering Fabrication Lab. They all deserve to share in this success.”
UC Davis Formula Racing is a student team that is challenged each year to go beyond textbook theory while designing, building and racing high-performance, environmentally conscious vehicles. The team comprises 25 mechanical and electrical engineering students, each of whom embraces the challenge of building a vehicle that could be sold to a manufacturing firm, and produced for the weekend autocrosser market. The goal is to provide these engineering students with vital hands-on skills and experience, as well as a realistic view of the technology that will play an important role in their engineering careers.
Several of the world’s major automotive manufacturers support Formula Racing, in order to meet and recruit student engineers who have learned to work beyond the boundaries of their chosen disciplines.
Formula SAE® is a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). Formula SAE promotes careers and excellence in engineering as it encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances. Formula SAE takes students out of the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences.