Student engineers gathered at Lincoln Airpark in Lincoln, NE, on June 19-21 to compete at SAE International's Formula SAE–Lincoln/Formula SAE–Electric. A total of 100 teams from Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the United States competed in the internal combustion and electric classes.
At FSAE events, teams of student engineers are tasked with designing, building and testing a formula-style racecar and compete to have their design chosen for production by a fictitious manufacturing company.
Competition began June 19 with the static events—cost, design, and presentation. Following the static finals on June 20, the competition transitioned into the dynamic events—efficiency, fuel efficiency, autocross, acceleration, skid pad, and endurance. Finals for several dynamic events as well as an awards ceremony capped off the competition June 21.
University of Kansas, Texas A&M University, and the University of Wisconsin earned the top three overall spots in the internal combustion class.
Kansas's Jayhawk Motorsports team was propelled to first place overall by earning first in the design and autocross categories and second in acceleration and endurance. KU finished more than 50 points ahead of runner-up Texas A&M.
“It’s really exciting and a true honor,” said Jill Langlas, Jayhawk Motorsports team leader and 2014 mechanical engineering graduate from Wheaton, IL. “We came in well-prepared and had a little luck in that everything held together and we didn’t get surprised by any breakdowns. It’s a thrill to come out on top against so many good teams.”
With temperatures in the mid-90s, heat and humidity played a factor in the competition. The final event at FSAE Lincoln is the endurance competition—a 13.6-mi (21.9-km), 14-lap test of all aspects of the car. After a strong finish in several other events, KU had the advantage of being the last team to run on the endurance course.
“We saw a lot of cars overheat and teams fail endurance, so we just wanted to be consistent and not drive the car too hard. We knew if we were consistent in our performance and just finished, it would be a big bonus,” Langlas said. “We added a more powerful fan to keep the car cool as a precaution. We also changed our engine to lean tuning, which uses less fuel. We knew we didn’t have to push for the fastest time. Endurance is all about finishing, and that’s what we did.”
Even with a solid design, the Jayhawks relied on their two drivers, Nick Roberts and Trent Strunk, to push the team’s car to its potential.
“We knew we’d built a fast car, but having two great drivers is a big benefit. They were consistent in all the races and really brought out the most in the car,” Langlas said.
Texas A&M University took first place in the endurance event, with the University of Kansas and California State Poly University–Pomona rounding out the top three.
Lincoln also allowed Jayhawk Motorsports to showcase its engineering skills beyond the racetrack. KU placed first in the design category, which is set up to assess the theory behind the construction of the car.
“Such a strong showing in design is a great example of how well-rounded the engineering experience is at KU. It’s not just about making the fastest car. We have to test the car, document the testing procedures, analyze the data, and present that to judges in a clear, comprehensive way,” Langlas said. “That’s a great reflection on Dr. Sorem’s vision for the program. Sorem focuses on creating good engineers, and it shows in the team’s performance year after year.”
This is the second time in program history—and second time in three years—that Jayhawk Motorsports has finished first overall at a Formula car competition. The 2014 team joins the 2012 squad in taking first overall at FSAE Lincoln.
Universidade Estadual de Campinas, from São Paulo, Brazil, captured first place in the Electric competition. Unicamp E-Racing beat out a field of 20 competitors to take the top spot. McGill University and the University of California, Davis rounded out the top three in the Electric competition.
In its pursuit of the top spot, Unicamp also captured wins in cost, endurance, efficiency, acceleration, and skid pad, and top three finishes in design, presentation, and autocross.
For 2014, the Unicamp E-Racing team focused on weight reduction and reliability. To meet these goals, it used carbon fiber, Kevlar, and aluminum components, and also reduced from 13- to 10-in wheels, for example.
In its first year of full-electric competition, McGill University won top honors for design. McGill’s MFE1 is powered by two, independently driven AC15 motors that feed power through two student-designed bevel-drive gearboxes.
UC Davis earned special recognition with its strong showing in its first year at FSAE Electric. Previously, the team competed in New Hampshire at Formula Hybrid, an event modeled after FSAE event and organized by SAE and Dartmouth College.
UC Davis was the first U.S. team to pass electrical tech inspection and finish the FSAE Electric endurance course.
“We’re pretty thrilled about it,” said Lucas Bolster, UC Davis team captain.
UC Davis Formula Racing’s first electric formula car employs an advanced torque vectoring and predictive traction control system. A National Instruments RIO device is used to implement the control and sensory system. Sensors include wheel speed, acceleration and yaw, steering angle, motor current, tractive voltage, and battery current. Maximum torque vectoring effectiveness is realized through the application of a fully left/right independent electric powertrain. Each permanent-magnet synchronous Z-Force motor produces a peak of 40 kW and 68 lb·ft of torque. Electrical energy is stored in a 6-kW·h pack composed of high-power Li-ion-NCM pouch format cells. Energy is recaptured using regenerative deceleration and the accumulator is 1-h quick-charging capable.
Bolster said the team’s primary objective for its first FSAE Electric was to “get through tech,” however after its strong showing, the team is already setting goals for next year.
But the road to a top-three finish wasn’t without hurdles. Bolster said the team wasn’t anticipating perfection and expected to make changes throughout the competition. But Bolster said the team wasn’t greeted with any major issues at tech inspection.
He added that the team had never driven the car before Lincoln, and decided to take a conservative approach to the endurance test so as not to overheat the battery during the test. The decision paid off, and the team finished endurance and secured a spot in the top three.
On June 21, awards were given in overall performance, individual events, and sponsor. Kettering University received the Nucor Steel Pay for Performance Award, and the University of South Florida won the 2015 Free Formula SAE Registration.
FSAE Lincoln/Electric marked the end of the 2014 Collegiate Design Series, and the 2015 dates will be released at the end of July.