A team of University of Missouri-Rolla students has designed and manufactured a sleek silver and blue vehicle that can outperform most sports cars – but UMR’s 2006 Formula Car isn’t street legal.
In order to prepare for the Formula SAE competition May 17-21 at the Ford Proving Grounds in Romeo, Mich., the UMR Formula Car Team has been testing its 500-pound “Indy-style” vehicle late at night at the Lowe’s parking lot in Rolla.
“We have to wait until the employees leave, so we don’t get started until late,” says UMR’s team president Prem Midha, a senior in mechanical engineering.
Last year, the UMR team had cooling problems. But they still managed to finish ninth out of 140 teams that participated in the competition, which is sponsored annually by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
“The cooling problems forced our drivers to hold back and not push the car as much as they could have,” says Midha.
Multiple drivers for each team participate in the competition. UMR’s drivers are selected based on the best times during advanced testing.
UMR students design and manufacture a new car for the competition each year. Several of the old high-performance vehicles have been sold in auctions, mostly to alumni, but the university keeps a few on campus for driver training.
UMR’s No. 9 car – the top teams are ranked and numbered according to the previous year’s results – goes from 0-to-60 mph in about 3.2 seconds. According to Midha, the vehicle is engineered for peak performance around 60 mph.
About 40 students are involved in every stage of creating the racing machine, from computer modeling to welding the car’s steel frame.
The UMR team raises about $50,000 per year for materials, tooling, parts and travel. Some teams spend a lot more.
At the competition, cars from college and university teams are judged in cost, design and performance categories, including acceleration tests that resemble drag races, and an endurance test.
UMR’s team advisor is Dr. Hank Pernicka, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.