Members of the Formula Car Design Team at the University of Missouri-Rolla have spent a lot of long nights at Lowe’s and Wal-Mart after the stores were closed.
It s hard to find parking lots big enough to test our car, says Valarie Boatman, one of the UMR students in charge of building a racing machine that can go from zero to 60 mph in a little more than three seconds.
The UMR team is competing May 19-22 in the Formula SAE competition, which is held in a really big parking lot, the one belonging to the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan.
Each year, a team of UMR students designs, builds and tests an open-wheeled, Indy-style racing vehicle. With a budget of about $40,000, UMR pits its car against vehicles from around the world in the annual Formula SAE competition.
About 60 UMR students are involved in creating their racing machine, from computer modeling to welding the car s steel frame. The UMR car weighs less than 500 pounds, according to Boatman, a senior in mechanical engineering from Cedar Hill, Mo.
At the competition, cars from college and university teams are judged in design and performance categories.
Each team can designate up to six drivers who are eligible to compete in acceleration tests resembling drag races and in an endurance test. Although the cars reach speeds of 65 mph, Boatman says the average speed is probably 35 mph. The course is tight and they want to keep it safe…
Typically, only about a third of the cars will finish the endurance race. They break down.
The UMR car didn t break down in 2004. In fact, the team finished fourth overall; and they have been rapidly gearing up for this year s competition.
Team members believe extensive testing will help them in the design portion of the competition. In April, they tested their car in a wind tunnel at Ford Motor Co. in Detroit.
Dr. Hank Pernicka, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UMR, is the team s advisor. More information about the Formula SAE competition is online at: students.sae.org/competitions/formulaseries/.
One formula car enthusiast and high-ranking university administrator, Dr. Wayne Huebner, thinks big things await team members after their racing days at UMR are over.
This is a really good thing to have on your resumes, Huebner, vice provost for research and sponsored programs at UMR, told a group of the students. You guys are going to get really good jobs.