Spring Break. ROAD TRIP!!!

Competition season is less than a month away so teams are ramping up their efforts. Instead of late-night cramming for exams it’s late-night composites, machining and testing.
UnloadDSC_5203While average students at average universities hollered “Road Trip!” and headed for the beaches, S&T students were doing more important things. The Miners hung around last week to work on a number of projects (Mars Rover, SAE Baja, Concrete Canoe, and Human Powered Vehicle, to name a few), but it was the Formula SAE team that really put forward the effort.
Their “road trip” pointed north, close to the chilly shores of Lake Huron, and Ford Motor Company’s massive Detroit-area wind tunnel. And their “all-nighter” was a pizza-fueled data collection marathon.

The crew strapped the car to the turntable in one of the world’s most sophisticated research facilities, usedRoll-inDSC_5588 to measure everything from downforce of racing vehicles to wind noise on production cars. Their goal? To see if the car’s aero performance validated their design calculations.

Did we mention the place was big? Oh, yeah, it was big. REALLY big!
Welty3DSC_5729 Aerodynamics leader David Long came prepared with a highly-detailed test list and would direct his crew to make very precise changes. Then they’d retreat to the control room where Mark Welty, responsible for aerodynamics computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis was glued to video monitors looking for the elusive proof that their design was successful. In each case they’d make a change, pile back in the control room, fire up the airflow, take measurements, shut down the fan and repeat. Over and over.

Once the entire aero package was tested it was time to tweak individual components; change a wing angle and restart the 7-meter high turbine. Again.

Smoke3DSC_5820It was well past midnight when the tests were complete, so they switched to a more primitive kind of data mining; the smoke test. Mark showed younger members how the computer data was reflected in visible patterns of air flow, some turbulent, some calm. How air could be directed to the radiators or away from drag-inducing surfaces.

All to prove to competition judges that they left no questions unresolved in the design of an exceptional vehicle.

We can’t close this road-trip saga without a tip of the hat to Steve Jacob and his crew. They simply couldn’t do enough for the Miners. Wanna see the massive turbine? Sure! Like to see the incredible turntable drive system? Right this way! Steve, Zach, and the late-shift Steve were simply thrilled to see “cool stuff” (S&T’s race car), “something new” in their test facility, and were heard to say “it’s good to do some real engineering for a change!”

And that, dear readers, is why S&T’s FSAE car sports a big blue “FORD” logo on its nose. The very least we can do for such wonderful support!