BYU's New Formula Car to Race for Engineering Prize

  Brigham Young University students have a strong tradition of using engineering know-how to build or modify various types of vehicles for racing, includingElectric Blue, numerous Mini Baja dune buggies and a General Motors EV1.


Now a core team of 19 engineering, technology and industrial design students will enter the next phase ofBYU racing when they travel to the California Speedway in Fontana to participate in the Formula SAE West competition June 14 -17. Seventy schools are scheduled to compete.

Led by faculty adviser Robert Todd, the BYU students built a sleek formula racecar from the ground up, using lightweight composite parts. Click to see video.

"This competition is considered by many to be the most prestigious university engineering competition in the world," said Todd, a professor of mechanical engineering. "It's a great real-world kind of experience for the students. It enables them to see what it's like to interface with vendors, to make decisions about what components to use and to use good engineering judgment in all of the analysis work that's done to enable the vehicle to perform well. It's a tremendous opportunity for learning."

The car, which weighs about 500 pounds and can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.3 seconds, was designed on a computer and constructed using a state-of-the-art 5-axis mill.

Additionally, the car features an extensive on-board system of more than 20 sensors that gather real-time performance information and transmit it via a wireless connection to students using a laptop computer. Students can tell how fast the car is accelerating, how hot its tires are and how well it's handling turns, among other things.

One of the team captains, Ryan Blanchard, says that the work he and fellow BYU students have been doing on the car gives them an experience they can't get in a classroom.

"We experience all the same problems that you do in a real-world engineering project," said Blanchard. "For me, the actual number-crunching part came easy – we'd all done that for the past three or four years. The benefit here is that we learn project management and communications skills that are hard to develop in other ways. It's been a thrilling, phenomenal challenge."

The car cost approximately $36,000, with funding coming from donors and the BYU Mechanical Engineering Department. National Instruments Corporation, a supplier of measurement and automation products used by engineers and scientists, also sponsors the car, which will be driven by several BYU students during the competition.


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