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Engineering students compete in international racing event

June 18, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's student Formula Racing Team for the first time participated in all the events of the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers Competition recently, designing an open-wheel style racecar from the ground up and ultimately racing.

The annual match drew teams from 105 other universities from 15 countries. This year, it was held May 14-18 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

The cars were judged on a series of events, including technical inspection, cost, presentation and engineering design, solo performance trials and a high performance track endurance event. While the WMU team was not able to finish the endurance test of the event, this was the first year the University qualified for all portions of the competition. The team entered but was not able to compete in all events in 2006 and 2003.

"Competing in all the events of the 2008 FSAE competition was a huge victory for the WMU Formula Racing Team. Many teams aren't able to do so because their car either fails to pass the rigorous technical inspection or experiences some type of failure during the dynamic racing events," says Conor Riordan, vice president/project manager for the team and a senior from Grand Rapids, Mich., who is majoring in mechanical engineering. "The team has worked exhaustively for the past two years to bring the project to this level, and we're finally showing that WMU is capable of aggressively competing against the best engineering schools in the world."

The car is an open-wheel style, similar to Formula 1 and Indy cars, although on a much smaller scale. It was completely designed and built by students with the help of WMU faculty advisors Dr. Bade Shrestha and Dr. Claudia Fajardo, both in the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering.

Other WMU faculty who helped with the racecar project include Dr. Richard Hathaway, a professor of mechanical and aeronautical engineering, who provided valuable technical advice to the team and Tom Sutton, an instructor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, who helped the team in the testing stage.

Teams typically spend 12 to 18 months designing, building testing and preparing their vehicles for the chance to demonstrate their creation and engineering skills.

"This is a volunteer activity. The students generally do not receive course credit for being involved in the FSAE vehicle project, but are motivated enough to spend a lot of time designing and building the vehicle and also preparing for competition. They do this while balancing their regular course load. The project is a wonderful opportunity for them to get hands on experience, apply what they learn in the classroom and develop very valuable skill sets," says Fajardo.

Earlier in the spring, the team also placed first in the Student Exhibit Poster Competition held during the SAE 2008 World Congress in Detroit. Collegiate chapters worldwide were judged on their 10-minute presentation and informal discussion with the judges on the event's theme, "A Climate for Change," during the event April 14 to 17.

For more information on the FSAE events and the WMU effort or to join the team, visit www.rso.wmich.edu/sae/homepage.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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