An uncertain product development budget didn’t derail the Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU)’s Formula SAE team from scoring the school’s highest overall finish in more than a decade in this annual competition.
As SPSU’s 2013-2014 team captain, Grady “Tad” Young kept the 22-person team on task with designing and building a Formula One-inspired racecar despite their next-to-nothing finances.
“One month into the competition year we didn’t even have enough funding to pay our competition fee. However, our continued work in the shop and support of our school showed our funding organization that we were not going to give up,” said Young, who received SAE's 2014 Rumbaugh Outstanding Student Leader Award for his efforts.
Established by a generous contribution from Max E. Rumbaugh Jr., Executive Vice President of SAE 1986-2001, this annual award recognizes SAE-related leadership activities. The nomination deadline for the 2015 award is July 15.
The indefatigable Young used CAD to create and optimize designs and planning for electrical and other component purchases, recalled the school’s lead Formula SAE faculty advisor.
“When funding was finally released at a reduced rate close to competition time, he was prepared to move at a fast pace to get the car ready just in time,” said Randy Emert, SPSU/Kennesaw State University’s Formula SAE faculty advisor. Emert is KSU’s assistant professor of mechanical engineering technology at the Marietta, GA, campus. (SPSU consolidated with KSU under the KSU banner in 2015.)
The 2013-2014 SPSU car set school records in five of eight Formula SAE Lincoln event categories, including a podium finish in acceleration. A 17th overall finish marked the school’s best overall ranking since the early 1990s.
Said Young, “My main focus was on improving the simplicity of the car by more thoroughly designing each component, reducing the part count through multi-functioning parts, and most importantly, reducing weight.”
Danny Webber, the 2013-2014 team’s vice president with responsibility for exhaust design/manufacture and chassis manufacture, said Young emphasized the weight reduction goal with a catchy buzzword.
“Sometime in 2013, Grady adopted the term ‘Superleggera’ as the team’s motto. Superleggera, of course, meaning ‘super light.’ With this as our mantra, we designed a car that was about 11% lighter than the 2012-2013 car. That was a total reduction of about 50 pounds (22.67 kg),” noted Webber.
As a December 2014 graduate of SPSU with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology, Young gained valuable lessons from participating in Formula SAE. “My biggest two leadership lessons were to lead by example and to always expect the worse, but aim for the best,” he said.
Young plans to communicate regularly with the Collegiate Design Board at SAE. “Having just graduated, I am still very close with the Formula SAE team. I would like to help improve the school’s Formula SAE program and the retention rate for SAE membership with Formula SAE graduates as much as possible,” Young said.