Student Post: Formula SAE team finishes 10th at Lincoln

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 phayes(at)kettering(dot)edu. 

By Chaz Mancino

After having a performance that could have gone infinitely better at Michigan International Speedway (M.I.S.), members of the Kettering University Formula SAE team bounced into action finding out where improvements could be made on the team’s car. After a few weeks of testing, making improvements on the car, and gathering data for the Formula SAE competition held in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Kettering team managed to have another stellar performance for having such a small team. With roughly 80 participating teams, Formula SAE Lincoln attracted some fiercely competitive teams. Just like last year, the Kettering University Formula SAE team was one of those teams.

Sixty-second place is nothing to write home about, especially with a car that has the potential to run with cars from strong performing schools. As all race car teams know, a few weeks of testing not only better prepares the driver, but also the car and other team members as well. As such, the sour taste in the Kettering University Formula SAE team members’ mouths led to a better planned and executed competition at Lincoln.

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The Kettering University Formula SAE team.

While breezing through technical inspection between Wednesday and Thursday, the Kettering University Formula SAE team was in position to wow its competitors. Thursday also brought the static events, where the team impressed in the cost event, placing second. Friday brought the acceleration, skidpad and autocross events, where the team did well enough in autocross to make it the afternoon run for the endurance event that Saturday (faster cars run the endurance event in the afternoon). Then the endurance event came. The event that killed the team at M.I.S. did not stand a chance at stopping the team at Lincoln. The team’s car not only finished the endurance event, but also placed 11th in it. To sweeten the finish, the team also took home the gold in fuel efficiency for the second year in a row. With placing first in one event, second in another, and 11th in the most important event, it was clear that the Kettering University Formula SAE team did well. But how well?

During the awards ceremony, the team was awarded Nucor Steel’s Pay for Performance award for the second straight year. This year, the award divided the total number of dynamic points each team received by the cost of the team’s car. With doing well in the cost event, it was clear that the Kettering team had the best “bang-for-your-buck” car there, but how many points did the team receive compared to the rest of the teams? That question was soon answered. As tradition, the top ten teams at Lincoln were called up during the awards ceremony. The Kettering University Formula SAE team was one of those teams. Now for the moment of truth. Coming in…10th place overall, the Kettering University Formula SAE team placed in the top 10 at Lincoln for the second year in a row!

While it was amazing to see the team do so well, it was even more amazing when I stepped back and thought of all of my hard work and sacrifices that I made for the car and how well they paid off. Being a designer, fabricator, and team member, I had the opportunity to see a car that my friends and I gave up so much for do so well. In addition, I learned valuable skills not only in just using CAD to design and how to create something from scratch, but also how to use valuable materials creatively to develop my ideas. Being a part of the team has also allowed me to understand different people’s views and ideas and how to cope with disagreements that we might have. While all of these things may sound like skills that all engineers should have, the Formula SAE team has helped me hone them so that I (and anyone else who is a member on any SAE team) will be better prepared for future tasks, such as a real job. That is why SAE students are some of the most sought after students in the field.

So the results are in. Having a small team does not mean sacrificing an impressive finish. A top 10 finish at a competition is good, but having a top 10 finish multiple times shows consistency. And the Kettering University Formula SAE team consistently changes what people think about a small, relatively low budge team. Just like the industry that it was founded for, Formula SAE changes, and the Kettering University Formula SAE team helps rewrite the rules. The only question now is is three times a charm?