Formula SAE: back in the top 10

A victory in the autocross race and solid performances in the endurance competition helped propel Missouri S&T’s Formula SAE Team to its third top-10 finish in five years in the annual Formula SAE international competition, held May 15-17 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.
The Missouri S&T team and its Indy-style miniature race car finished eighth among a field of 104 contestants from 15 countries. The University of Western Australia won the overall event.

Related links:

  • Audio wrapup from Brad Leuther, team leader for the Missouri S&T team.
  • Audio archive from the event.
  • The Missouri S&T team achieved its highest finish in the event since 2004, when the team finished fourth out of some 120 competitors. The team finished ninth in the 2005 event. After failing to complete the 2006 and 2007 races, the team’s 2008 ranking gives the team three top-10 finishes over the past five years. Earlier this year, Missouri S&T finished second out of 40 teams in a similar race in Virginia.
    The Formula SAE events, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, are designed to showcase the engineering skills of university students. Each year for the Formula SAE competitions, the teams design and manufacture a new car. At each event, teams were judged in several performance categories, including acceleration tests that resemble drag races, and an endurance test. Judges also evaluate cost and design.
    In addition to winning the autocross competition with a time of 46.9 seconds, Missouri S&T finished second in a design paper presentation, and finished in the top 10 in the endurance and cost categories.
    "Every year since I’ve been advisor, which began in 2001, the competitiveness has become more and more intense," says team advisor Dr. Hank Pernicka, associate professor of aerospace engineering at Missouri S&T. "For us to win autocross and to be so competitive in the other events speaks well of this team and our program. I’m very proud of this team’s accomplishments in such a highly competitive annual event."

    Some 40 S&T students were involved in every stage of creating the racing machine, from computer modeling to welding the car’s steel frame. Each year, the students design and manufacture a new car for various competitions. Twenty-three students traveled to Michigan for the event.
    According to one of the team leaders, Brad Leuther, Missouri S&T was behind schedule last year and didn’t finish its car until it arrived at the first event site. This year, the car was finished early and the team has been testing it for several months.
    Leuther says the 2008 car, which weighs 450 pounds and has a top speed of about 85 mph, is faster and easier to work on than the 2007 model. Last year’s car blew an engine due to oil starvation, a big problem that has been addressed by the new crew.
    “It’s so easy to over-engineer stuff,” says Leuther, a senior in mechanical engineering from Fulton, Mo. “We evaluated everything this year and tried not to make it too complicated.”
    The final stop on the circuit of this year’s Formula SAE competitions is Formula SAE West, scheduled for June 25-28 in Fontana, Calif. Missouri S&T is among the 82 universities registered for that competition.