On the bottom floor of CEER, tucked into a corner at the end of the hallway, there sits a room where a team of engineers are hard at work. This team is no once-a-week study group, but one with a special task at hand: at the center of many messy tables and workbenches sits a Formula car, designed and pieced together entirely by students. Their goal is to build an optimal car to compete at a Formula SAE competition held each spring at Michigan International Speedway.
The competition challenges student groups internationally to create a Formula-style racecar that will be evaluated for its potential as a production item. Teams build their cars based on a strict set of rules designed to promote safety and problem-solving. The cars are judged in “Dynamic Events,” where the car will be put to test with a driver in categories such as acceleration and endurance. However, students also must work to score highly in the “Static Events,” which judge design, manufacturing, and even how much the car cost. Without paying careful attention to make a well-rounded car for each event, teams will not be able to place highly overall.
For the Villanova students involved in NovaRacing, joining the team is a serious time commitment, but a worthwhile one. The engineers see the process through from the earliest stages of design to the last parts of competition. To begin, the students look at the strengths and weaknesses of the previous year’s car. After such analysis, the gradual process of working to create an even better vehicle begins.
Part of the reason why the process can be difficult is the judges’ level of scrutiny at the competition. Those presenting at the competition need to understand not only the innerworkings and types of materials for every single part of the car, but also the reasons behind every design decision that led to the car’s makeup. This means that team members must constantly be up to date on what everyone is doing and not just closed off to their own tasks. Without the care to work so cohesively, the team would risk losing points in events at the competition such as the Cost & Manufacturing Analysis Event.
Though this process is rigorous, it has paid off for NovaRacing in particular. At the competition, the team is one of 120 universities internationally, with many teams much bigger than Villanova’s. Despite this, NovaRacing has had great success, placing in the top 20 for the past three years. The team has high aspirations, hoping to break into the top 10 with the help of a new aerodynamic package that will help with overall handling, control and speed around corners.
Apart from competitive success however, there are other perks to being involved with Formula SAE. The team members see it as one of the only places on campus where students can truly apply engineering curriculum. If they’re willing to put in the work to complete such an intense task, students can easily find new projects to help improve the racecar and, if they choose, rise to higher positions within the team. Perhaps the most exciting part for some are events such as ‘Everyone Drives Day,’ where students can take their own creation out for a spin.
If you are not an engineer but are still interested, have no fear. In addition to engineering, the team is also looking for students from VSB and CLAS to help out the business team with advertising and marketing the vehicle to sponsors and the community. The process is a great way for students of any major to apply their learning, and the team encourages those interested to stop by the garage in CEER.