It’s The Crazy Season!

Student design competitions are in full swing. Bright and early tomorrow starts the Steel Bridge contest, followed just a day later by the Concrete Canoe event, both in Stillwater, OK. The ’14 S&T bridge is a stunning example of design simplicity that takes but three students to assemble in under 10 minutes. The Route 66-themed The Mother Rowed canoe has so far overcome some pretty serious cracks after a critical pour component didn’t arrive in time. If it survives the trailer ride to OSU country, it should be OK.

Overlapping those two events is the ASME West Coast Human Powered Vehicle Competitions, two time zones to the west in San Jose, CA. The road rash on Peter Freiberger’s carbon-fiber masterpiece has been repaired, and the endurance race will be held on an old-fashioned velodromes so hay bales and overly-aggressive riding should be less of a problem.

FASEDC3SUN_0991In the midst of all this chaos Rolla’s flashiest and most consistent team, Formula SAE, has carved out some asphalt of their own at the Rolla National Airport. Nights, weekends, rain or shine they’ve been testing, testing, testing. Another 10 days or so and the full aero package will be ready while the body-panels-of-many-colors will give way to one of the flashiest machines of the 400+ teams that run in these events world-wide.

In other news, Phoenix, the Mars Rover Design Team’s freshly-unveiled machine was rolling on its own late last night, and Saturday’s Illinois test of the Advanced Aero Vehicle Groups monster rocket was a good one. Most components worked as designed, nothing broke, and they got all the pieces back. Not a bad day’s work.

Lastly, from the Conde’ Nast travel guide. You’re probably in the wrong hotel if your toilet has a sign on the tank telling you not to drink the water. The advance party for Human Powered Vehicle sent us this travel tidbit tonight:

“Is it really necessary to tell hotel occupants not to drink out of the toilet? Really?”

Planespotting

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It’s somehow appropriate that if you build a car that can really fly, you take it to an airport.

S&T’s world-renown Formula SAE team has long had trouble finding nice, clean concrete or asphalt acreage on which to gather data about the car’s performance. As parking lots fall into disrepair, crabby neighbors complain about the sound of a (properly muffled) 600cc motorcycle engine, or people’s cars actually park there, they end up moving from venue to venue.

Time for stronger action. Long story short, Jack Savage’s crew undertook a satellite search of drivable property in a hundred-mile radius, but in a post-911 world didn’t consider airports. Some non-satellite networking turned up a well-maintained airport owned by (surprise!) the City of Rolla. A few visits, sales pitches, and negotiations later the team has temporary ownership of airplane hangars and tarmac with but one proviso. If an aircraft taxis in, get the hell out of the way.

Deal!

Christmas Elves Are Working Overtime

Yeah, campus is almost empty. But deep in the bowels of the Kummer Student Design Center some tall, high-ACT elves remain hard at work.

WheeldishSUN_2928_2 The Human Powered Vehicle Competition Team recently took delivery of another three pallets of high-value tooling foam courtesy of Santa, er, Chuck and Kristle at Coastal Enterprises. The heavy sheets are glued in big blocks to be machined into precision body molds for the team’s aerodynamic fairings. Smaller foam sections are handled in house on Richard Dalton’s CNC mill. What looks like Christmas cookie trays are actually concave patterns for carbon-fiber wheel dishes the team will mount to the 2014 entry, a recumbent tricycle. Chief engineer Peter Freiberger says this will be the first time the Miners will build the entire wheel from scratch, hubs included. Peter spent equal time this week staring at the CNC mill and using one of the shop’s three lathes to make small aluminum hubs out of big aluminum billets. These hubs will be press-fitted into the new wheels, giving Miner riders stronger (yet lighter) wheels, and a better chance to claim their third national championship in the last seven years.

It turns out that aluminum shavings sorta resembles Christmas-tree tinsel, or even mistletoe, in a weird sort of way. It was the perfect solution! All that was needed was a problem to solve, and a workshop sorely lacking in Christmas cheer seemed to fit the bill. Tinsel 1SUN_2957 A little creative uh, engineering repurposed material destined for the recycling can into a useful decoration! Better still, we won’t have to store it!! Just take it down, ship it off to be melted down, and start the whole process over next year! WOW, what an idea!

Except the S&T Formula SAE team was one step ahead……….
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They’d already nailed some “found” evergreen branches to a wall and hung racecar parts, and yes, aluminum lathe turnings, to what vaguely resembled the lovely Tannenbaum, so we have to give credit where credit us due. Good job, guys! Keep wearing those safety glasses, and may Santa keep the lumps of coal from your stockings!

Rolla Is A Great Community!

We often tell prospective students (and their sometimes nervous parents) that Rolla takes great pride in Missouri S&T and will do most anything to support our students. Here’s a perfect example:

As the previous blog post pointed out, S&T’s Formula SAE Racing team spent much of 2013 establishing an intercollegiate autocross event to replace an industry-sponsored event. As S&T is a state-assisted university, instead of the state-supported institution many assume it to be, pinching pennies and sharing equipment has become de rigueur*.

The Student Design and Experiential Learning Center, home to more than a dozen intercollegiate design teams, has a fleet of truck for team use, all of which were in California with the solar house team. Jack Savage’s FSAE team arranged to borrow another campus truck to pull the team’s gooseneck trailer, but that one couldn’t get back to campus in time. Panic time, as the event couldn’t take place without the Miners.

Plan B? Rent a truck. Nowhere in Rolla could be found a vehicle on short notice, leaving only hours before the Miners were in real trouble.

Plan C. Call Hi-Tech Collision, a local auto/body shop that frequently sponsors design teams, to see who in town might have the necessary motive power. Owner Nick Frost said “well, we just detailed a truck for a local bank, and I think it’s for sale. Why not call them?”

Long story short, up stepped Adam Housewright of First Community National Bank, who had his personal Dodge dually 1-ton truck up for sale. When told of the situation Adam said “Sure, you can have it! Just fill it up when you bring it back.”

Wow! No contract, lawyers, or signature. Just a handshake. Without Adam’s trust and generosity this event might have been a disaster, so with apologies to Yakov Smirnoff, “is Rolla a great place or what?”

Thanks so much, Adam!

*for you KU grads, “de rigueur” is French for “business as usual.”

Disneyland? NO WAY! We’re Headed To The NURBURGRING!!!!

What do race car engineers do after a big race? They go looking for other places to race, of course!
The Holy Grail of motorsports? Sorry, Indianapolis, it’s the NURBURGRING in the Eifel Mountains about an hour west of Coblenz, Germany.
A few of the Miners will go to the 1920s-era 15-mile track tomorrow and try to sneak a rental car out on what Jackie Stewart famously nicknamed “The Green Hell.” The wooded course is widely considered the most demanding and difficult purpose-built racing circuit in the world, and any racer worth her or his stuff absolutely dreams of taking a spin on its surface.
Never heard of the Nurburgring? Doesn’t matter, but trust us, you HAVE seen it on any number of sports car commercials.
After punching their race cards on that loop, they’ll head 1,000KM south to Monaco, and take a few runs at the Grand Prix course on the Mediterranean.
Tough job, these Miners have.

The Miners Are NOT Happy Campers…….

Nothing to do with the Formula Student experience, which has been absolutely fantastic.
Today it’s time to get everything packed up and sent off. Say their “Auf Wiedersehen!” and “Tchuss!” to their wonderful Mittweida hosts and break down the tents. And that’s the problem.
It rained hard last night and showers are still in the area, so as the title says , they are not gonna be “happy campers” when we see them in an hour or so.

“We Came To Germany To Prove We Had A Fast Car. And We Succeeded!”

For a first-time team at Formula Student-Germany, Missouri had a great run! Did they win? No, but they put on a heckuva show with 1st in Skidpad and 2nd in Autocross (clocked fastest lap), earning them a slot with the race ‘finalists’. Five premium teams were held out of the all-day endurance race so that just the BEST would be on the track for a crowd-pleasing grand finale.
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Each of those five were winged vehicles; three European teams, one U.S./German partnership (GFR/Ravensburg & Oregon State), and Missouri S&T. Driver Alec Surrat was second out of the gate some 150 yards behind UAS Esslingen, and quickly made the leader feel like engineering prey. He drove a very smooth run that seemed to turn the finals into a four-car runner-up duel, while S&T’s #45 car was waaaaaay out in front, just cruising.
At driver change time it didn’t look as if any of the cars, even two-time U.S. champion GFR, were going to be able to mount a serious challenge to S&T. All five cars pulled into the pits for the three-minute window but GFR had a dead battery and was pulled from the roster. Then the same thing happened to Missouri S&T, leaving three lesser vehicles to fight for the final 375 points.
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It seems the car’s charging circuit gave out during the first half of endurance, sticking S&T with its 3rd endurance DNF of the season. In each race the Miners were either dominating or hanging nose-to-tail with the best in the world. It is painful to watch a team that has done so well be brought down by three different seemingly minor malfunctions, but reliability IS a big part of these design competitions. And it happens in racing.
We haven’t looked up the final scores we’ll go with the crew’s perspective that they did just “OK” in presentation, design, and cost, so those areas will need improvement. They’ll actively recruit business-minded team members, but it’ll be tough to keep them in the office and out of the shop, where the wrench turning takes place.
They may not have reached the podium, but we’re hearing rumors of several major European firms who “want their name on our car.” If that turns out to be correct it will be difficult NOT to come back to Formula Student Germany next year.
Or Formula Student Silverstone. Or Formula Student Austria. Or all three.

“We Have A Good Thing Going Here!”

Is the mood in the Missouri S&T paddock.
PaddockDSC_7459.jpgThe Miners took second overall in Autocross They posted the best overall time but cone strikes cost S&T four seconds in penalties, which is a lot when your raw score is 76.09 seconds on a 1.3KM course. Apparently all but one of the fastest teams hit cones as well, and oddly enough the cone that “died” the most was the first one out of the gate.
Cars spun out, went off course, sucked cones into their intakes, broke shifter links, chains, and anything else you could think of. Some electric cars simply stopped, but to be fair, so did some gas burners. Track marshals even found a piston connecting rod on the track. They returned it to the owner by following an oil trail leading to a big cloud of blue smoke.
In the meantime you can’t find a parking place within a mile of here. Folks are streaming in to watch more drag races, and a lot of the crowd is spilling over to the Formula Student event. We’re picking up more of a holiday atmosphere because all the testing and presenting is over. Now it’s time to go out and have fun on the track.
The camping area is thinning out after last night’s rain showers and there’s a big community fish fry going on, complete with a huge beer tent and a German (of course!) brass band. Playing uh, “Sweet Caroline!”*
*This one’s for you, Jack Carney! We didn’t know it was the 7th-inning stretch at Fenway! 🙂

Watch Today’s Endurance Race LIVE!

No, it’s not the Speed Channel, but the price is right. FSAE main advisor Hank Pernicka sent us this link: http://www.formulastudent.tv/
The bad news? There are a hundred or so cars here and we don’t know when Missouri S&T will run. Some say right after lunch, some say the end of the day. Who knows?
So get up early, turn the A/C down to 72 degrees, grab some crappy American beer and settle in for the experience.
Because today’s track temps will be in the low 70’s, and you’ll want to feel like you are here.

The Sign Means What It Says!

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This event is held in remarkably close quarters, and that makes it great for spectators.
Visitors are charged entry fees, but that doesn’t stop people from coming out in larger numbers than the U.S. will ever see!
It’s kinda cool when a team makes a good run and applause comes from the grandstands across the main Formula track. But we could do without the guy who keeps blowing the Vuvuzela that became so irritating at the 2010 Football World Cup.
Car Spotting: There was the 1950s Corvette funny car on the track, but last evening a PRISTINE (yeah, ALL the cars over here seem pristine) ’96 Chevy SS Impala cruising through town.