Student Post: MIS is a learning experience for formula team

Jun 4, 2014

Reflections on the SAE team's performance at MIS.

Chaz Mancino is a Mechanical Engineering major from New York.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog post by Kettering student Charles ‘Chaz’ Mancino. Chaz is from Fredonia, New York, and is majoring in Mechanical Engineering.If you’d like to write a guest blog post, email jmurphy(at)kettering(dot)edu. 

By Chaz Mancino

This year brought many new challenges to the Kettering University Formula SAE team. Since the team’s previous chief engineer had left and other core members had graduated, members knew that it was going to be an uphill battle coming into this competition season. New challenges arose when the team decided to switch to 10-inch rims from the old, heavy 13s that GMI2014’s predecessors wore. With new members coming aboard and a redesign of key parts such as the chassis, uprights, suspension and brakes, this year not only tested the engineering skills of the members of the Kettering University Formula SAE team but also their patience.

After completing GMI2014 and having a few days to test it, the story of the team’s competition at Michigan International Speedway (M.I.S.) May 14-17 began. Arriving at M.I.S. on a Thursday morning, sleep deprived and teeth caked with coffee stains, members of the team quickly got ready for the static events while preparing to go through technical inspection. The first event for the team was the cost event. Coming in with the lowest priced car, the team obviously had to go through the cost audit. There, the judges looked over the team’s car and picked over things that were not in the cost report but would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Walking away from the audit, the team placed the highest in any event that it would all competition, coming in a respectable fifth place.

Previously from this author:

The next stop for the team was the design event. Having an all-new design with very few days of testing meant that the theoretical data was there, but there was hardly any test data. Despite lacking the test data of a new design, the team came in 38th overall. The last static event on tap for the team was the business presentation. After finishing 52nd in the event last year, the Kettering University Formula SAE team business presenters were able  to pitch the team to a 12th place overall for the event, an improvement of 40 places. Placing quite well in the static events, it was clear that the Kettering University Formula SAE team was unable to be stopped … or so it seemed.

While at technical inspection, members of the team had a hard time getting Percy, the template representing a person sitting in a Formula SAE vehicle, to fit comfortably in the team’s car, especially since his feet were causing him to not fit in the car properly due to the pedals. An overnight trip to Flint to fix the pedal issue along with a trim of the headrest allowed Percy to finally fit comfortably in the team’s car. Unfortunately, by the time the team had passed technical inspection on Friday, the acceleration and skid pad events had come to a close. Fortunately, the team’s car zipped through the tilt, noise and brake tests and was able to compete in the autocross event held that afternoon. Managing to do well enough in the autocross event to land the team’s car in the 33rd spot for the endurance event on Saturday allowed members of the team to sleep comfortably Friday night, but the next day was full of surprises.

Saturday brought the highest-weighted event: endurance. While this year’s endurance event at M.I.S. had some surprising occurrences, such as three car fires and less than half of the field finishing the event, the Kettering University Formula SAE team’s car came out in full force. Unfortunately, a little over halfway through the team’s swing at endurance, the car ran out of gas. As puzzling as this was since the team’s car won fuel economy last year during the same event, the team bounced into action getting the car back into the paddocks so that the problem, found in the inner depths of the engine, could be diagnosed.

Despite not having a stellar performance at M.I.S. like last year, it was evident that the team brought some lessons home to learn from. Still, finishing 62nd overall with the lowest priced car at the competition is nothing to be upset about and proves that the lowest priced car is certainly not the worst car. That especially is nothing to frown down upon considering that most of the parts of the car were completely redesigned and the car was partially built by new team members. What the team learned at M.I.S. will be used as a basis for preparing the car for the Lincoln, Nebraska, competition later this month, where the team looks to show the world what its car is truly made of.