UNT team revving up for entry into Formula SAE competition
A group of University of North Texas students is building a race car, but it isn’t for school credit.
The UNT Society of Automotive Engineers decided to form Mean Green Racing and build its first open-wheel car to race in Formula SAE competition.
The students have been working for several months between classes and after hours to design the car, and they have several months of work ahead of them before they compete in June in Lincoln, Neb.
Over the Christmas break, students have been gathering in a lab at Discovery Park to work on designing the car using computer-aided drafting software before the physical assembly begins.
“Classes ended last week and we’re up here,” team secretary Michael Stoddard said Wednesday as students at computers worked on different parts of the car.
The Formula SAE student design competition, which is organized by SAE International, has students design, build and test prototypes.
Universities compete nationally and internationally.
The group of about 35 UNT students has been taking pointers from the University of Texas at Arlington team, which was established 30 years ago.
Bob Woods, a professor of mechanical engineering and the director of the UTA team, advised the UNT team to get the car built and learn how to drive it.
“I told them to keep everything as simple as possible,” he said. “Don’t try to do something high-tech or fancy. Just make it simple.”
Because it is a novice team, Woods said the members have a lot to learn, including the fact that it takes longer to build a car than they think. After the design is complete, an average build time for a car is about three months, Woods said.
“For them, success is getting to the competition and competing in every event,” Woods said.
The UNT team agrees.
Team treasurer Mike Goodman said members will be cautious this year because it’s the first car they’ve built.
“Our major goal is to finish everything,” Goodman said.
Mean Green Racing began working on fundraising and research over the summer. The team’s goal was to raise $42,000 to cover expenses. The students have spent about $20,000 and had some materials donated.
The team worked on the design during the fall semester.
Different groups of students are building different parts of the car, including the suspension, the frame and the engine.
Matt Ellis, team president, said the students have to analyze every part for a real-world experience.
“You have to show [the judges] what you’ve done in your design,” he said.
The judges will be world-class automotive engineers, Ellis said.
David Bounds, vice president of the team, said everything the students put on the car has to serve a purpose.
Materials have been ordered, and the students plan to begin building the car before the spring semester begins. After it’s built, the team will drive it and see if anything needs to be redesigned or adjusted.
Students who put time into building the car will have an opportunity to try out as primary driver, builder Matt Lagow said.
Prior to working on the car, the students built a mini Baja vehicle but didn’t compete. The Formula SAE car was of more interest to the students, Goodman said.
The team wants to get UNT excited about having a race team.
“There is really nothing we’re known for,” Goodman said. “We’re trying to get our name out there.”
Woods said it takes more than engineering skills to compete. It also takes management and marketing skills, the UTA professor said.
Successful management includes meeting deadlines, maintaining team morale, having enough funds and staying on schedule, Woods said.
The students said they’ve already gained a lot from the experience.
“It’s more or less not something you learn in a book,” Lagow said.
They’ve had to develop skills that haven’t been taught in their classes. The hope is that the experience will benefit them when applying for jobs.
“They learn things here that we could never teach them in the classroom,” Woods said.
Recruiters are after students who have been involved in Formula SAE competitions, Woods said, adding that they have booths at the events.
Woods said the UNT team is doing well because of a few highly motivated students.
“This is very significant, both for the students and the university,” he said. “They need all the encouragement and support they can get. I think the community and the university need to come behind them and help support them.”
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
HOW TO HELP
The race team is still looking for support. For more information, e-mail email@example.com .