Cultural Differences

OK, we’ve seen WAY too many McDonalds’ restaurants along the autobahn, heard a couple of car subwoofers coming from blocks away, and worst of all, spotted a shirtless teenager with his underwear showing above his drooping pants.
Were pretty sure that’s not what George Marshall had in mind when he helped Europe recover from the Second World War.
On a more local level, we saw an FSAE member get upset today when he realized that hot dog rolls here are NOT pre-sliced.
Oh, The Humanity!

Now The REAL Fun Begins!

MittDSC_6754.jpgLike wildebeest descending on the Serengheti’s biggest water hole, FSAE and Formula Student teams from all over Europe and the U.S. converged on Germany’s Hockenheimring today.
It took over seven hours* from the pre-dawn Mittweida load to arrival in the Rhine Valley, during which the Miners passed perhaps thousands of acres (hectares?) of solar panels scattered across farms and fields, a testament to Germany’s aggressive pursuit of larger energy solutions. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the hundreds of giant wind turbines spread around the states of Hessen, Sachsen, Thuringia, and Baden Wurttemberg.
Our Sachsen friends hauled S&T’s car, gear, and even a few students to Hockenheim. That certainly made the team’s five-seat mini-minivan a lot less, uh, cozy.
Track officials opened the facility and campground at noon today, and the result was a cross between the Oklahoma Land Rush and the Joad family in “The Grapes of Wrath.” TentsDSC_6782.jpgBackpack-laden students mobbed the front gate for their tenant wristbands, preventing most vehicle traffic from entering OR leaving. Tent villages popped up out of nowhere. TentsDSC_6778.jpgSome teams set up structures Red Cross disaster relief workers green with envy, while other areas resembled multicolored herds of turtles.
Once semi-settled the Miners reverted to the standard design team form; rush around buying items they left back in Rolla or airlines just wouldn’t ship. And that includes two students who arrived by rail this afternoon (don’t ask).
And they bought FOOD!
Scrutineering starts tomorrow. Thursday might give S&T and Mittweida a break in the action since Formula Student is running two competitions simultaneously, Formula Student, and Formula Student Electric. The benzin-powered teams may stand down a bit, tweak the cars, do a little sightseeing, or just BUY FOOD!
*Do the math. To get here by noon that meant a 5:00 a.m. departure. The mechanics were working on the car until after 3:00 a.m. We’ll guarantee they didn’t see today’s windmills, solar panels, or Baroque architecture that helps make German’s lush scenery so breathtaking.

Taking Everything AND The Kitchen Sink!

The gearbox is back. The 10-hour roundtrip dash to Frankfurt and back has the Miners’ gearbox ready for rebuild and installation. Some time after dark they’ll finish the rebuilding and turn the car right-side up again, just in time to load it in Mittweida’s trailer for a six- or seven-hour drive to the Hockenheimring near where the Neckar meets the Rhine.
THAT trip starts at 6:00 a.m. and means no sleep, no laundry, and no energy, especially from jet-lagged Derek Martin and Alec Surrat. Bob Zhongchi and Derrick Denlinger are safely bedded down in a Frankfurt hotel already, and should be at least able to speak English tomorrow, something the rest of the mob is having trouble with.
Now, more about our wonderful hosts……….
While Komal Choong and Nick Schweissguth have been sweating over the car, the Mittweida team got their logistics squared away. They’ve rented a big truck with a lift deck and stuffed half of it with a refrigerator, big tents, camping gear chairs, bench tables, cooking equipment, and a kitchen sink. Yep, a two-hole, stainless steel kitchen SINK. When asked “why the sink?”, Marcus simply said “Why not? We have to cook!”
One last item took four struggling team members to load, and you’ll soon see why……..
BuickSUN_2319.jpg If you’ve ever traveled with S&T design teams you’ll know that our crews will graze on someone’s lawn, eat potato chips all day, and hydrate themselves with Red Bull for a week straight. The Germans have packed plenty of food and get THIS, a full PALLET full of mineral wasser, fruit sodas, colas, and for the piece de’ resistance BEER! Lots of it! A smiling uberhost Uwe commented “This is a lot less beer (bier) than last time, but that’s OK! We can buy more when we get there.” In Rolla they’d call this kind of action the “Best Ever!” St. Pat’s. And they haven’t even started to load their car!
Other odds ‘n ends from the Miners’ “global” experience………..
Stroll down the old part of Mittweida, through its gorgeous 250-year-old architecture dotted with shops and bakeries. The streets are lined with flashy compact cars from Renault, BMW, Audi, Skoda, Opel, VW. And a ’96 Buick Roadmaster Wagon jutting out into the street. Really. Chrome wheels, tinted windows, and a beautiful dark red paint job. Don’t believe it? See the photo at left.
Send a Rolla engineer to buy meat, bread, and drinks for dinner, and he’ll come back with a loaf of white bread to go with the bratwurst. Think “Wonder Bread” in the land of the best bakeries in the world, and you’ll understand the blasphemy involved.
Back at the shop just before dark we heard a welding machine firing up with its distinctive buzz and popping sounds, followed immediately by a high-pitched scream in perfect (Missouri) English “HOW DO YOU TURN THIS THING OFF??????
Better yet that we don’t mention any names. It might affect their hiring potential.
And the gearbox that we’re so worried about? It’s back in the car but it’ll be another late night at the Mittweida corral.
Our next update will come to you from the Hockenheimring.

The London Olympics Have Nothing On the S&T Formula Car Team!

“Stronger, faster, higher!'” may be the motto of the Olympic Games, but FSAE/Formula Student teams will go that one better.
Yesterday’s testing revealed some severe transmission problems, and an all-night engine tear down revealed just how bad it was. Rolla’s car has spent the last 24 hours upside down next to Hochschule Mittweida’s car, carefully having it’s drive gears removed and analyzed. And it was bad. Real bad.
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Meanwhile Uwe and his Sachsen buddies had adopted the car as their own, and dove in to help. In an old toolbox they found some critical “banjo bolts” that will get S&T’s brake system working. They checked all over Germany for fellow motorheads that might have a spare engine and gearbox for sale. No such luck, so Nick Schweissguth got back on his very expensive cellphone to the states.
And that’s where the Olympic comparison comes in, because tomorrow S&T will medal in the first-ever collegiate intercontinental parts sprint.
The Miners’ follow-on crew arrives in Frankfurt at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow with very heavy luggage; long on car parts and short on underwear. Nick’s crew will blast off from Mittweida at dawn for the five-hour relay race to the flughaven, throw Derrick Martin and his James-Bond-style parts valise into the trunk, and scream back up the autobahn to the former Free State of Saxony, just as fast as their under-powered Renault van will carry them.
At that point Komal Choong will join Derrick and Nick in rebuilding the car overnight. Just in time to take BOTH teams some eight hours to the Hockenheimring south of Heidelberg for the real automotive olympics.
THAT bedlam starts Tuesday. And no, there won’t be any made-for-TV opening ceremonies.
Bis morgen, gentle readers.

Unsere Werkstatt Ist Ihr Workshop!

“Our Workshop is YOUR Workshop!”
No better way of describing the welcome we’ve received from Uwe, Stephan, Marcus, Anna, Jens, and the rest of the Mittweida racing team. They’re working on only their third car as a team and have but a small garage, but here’s what they have done so far:
Received, stored, and unpacked Rolla’s car before the Miners’ advance crew even got off the plane.
Given S&T the keys to a sparkling, fully-furnished, three-bedroom apartment less than a 10-minute walk from the shop.
Took them food shopping last night and Insisted on buying the team breakfast today.*
Called other regional teams and arranged for a parts loan when an S&T aluminum brake valve bolt twisted off.
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Found a lightly-used airport in an idyllic pastoral setting, and loaded the car on a trailer for a 30-minute trip to the tarmac for testing.
Set up a skid-pad course on the airfield to have S&T Racing check their suspension.
Did a great job of practicing their English all day for the benefit of their guests. Even singing a letter-perfect rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking!” (see model explanation, below).
MittweidaSUN_2162_2.jpgArranged for a professional photographer to do a photo series of S&T’s car in an airplane hanger. Complete with a fetching, long-legged model to uh, brighten up the scene a little.**
Brought a cooler full of ice cream to the site to give everyone a boost.
And hauled the whole operation back to town. All this in just our first day on the job!!!
Now, if they could just call the TSA and explain why the second wave of S&T team members are taking off tomorrow with tools, gears, fluids, bolts, and for all WE know, a full set of racing tires stuffed in their luggage.
So, how is our car doing? Our hosts have turned their garage over to the Miners because of a transmission problem. Possibly a BIG problem. Nick Schwiessguth, Matt Laurent, Mike Mason and Komal Choong are upending the car to open the tranny, and expect to stay up all night pulling the whole power pack out. The host team, meanwhile, is sitting out in the parking lot chatting, drinking that great German bier, and standing by to help. Guess we’re not in Rolla any more, eh?
If all goes well, the Rolla car will be out on the tarmac again tomorrow.
For all your sweltering Missouri folks, eat your hearts out. Temps today stayed in the mid-80s, with a nice breeze.
*If you never stop in a small-town German bakery for a fresh brotchen, schinken,eier, und geback breakfast, you will die unfulfilled, not knowing what true ecstasy is.
** And NO, we are NOT going to post one of those images, because the Mittweida marketing program is working on a, dare we say, automotive calendar. That probably WON’T be available in the U.S.
Darned Puritans!

1st Day In Germany For S&T Formula

Early Friday morning, sitting with drivetrain group leader Komal Choong in a breakfast bar waiting for Matt Laurent, Nick Schweissguth and Mike Mason, all of whom are due in about 3 hours from now.
First impression? McDonalds can’t hold a candle to German breakfast sandwiches. Not even on the same planet.
Second? The relaxed atmosphere in European eating establishments. People take time to eat and converse. No grab-a-coffee-while-yapping-on-a-cell-phone-rush.
Third observation? The colorful mix of cultures and languages. At the next table sit a pair of robed Buddhist monks, beyond them a big family group. Down the hall rushes a Catholic nun.
Today’s plan is to meet up with the car at Hochschule Mittweida, near Dresden. Kudos to UPS freight for getting it door-to-door from Rolla to eastern Germany so quickly. Air freight to Europe but ocean cargo ship on the way back. Cheaper that way, but the team might have to pass up the September shoot-out in Toronto if it’s not back in time. That’s OK, because making tough funding-based business decisions is a huge part of team operations. It’s NOT just about screaming across the asphalt.

In Europe, It’s The Beginning Of The Racing Year.

In the U.S., the FSAE automotive design competitions wrapped up last month when the Miners nearly won the Lincoln, NE event.
As we understand it, when European teams race in the U.S. they’ve already had a year to work out all the bugs and train their drivers to peak performance, while North and South Americans squads show up with new, and sometimes iffy, prototypes. That gives our guests a hypothetical advantage.
In this case Missouri S&T is bring a well-tested car, but we don’t know if our European hosts will be racing new cars until we get to the track. Either way, strategy will be important, and there will be a whole new group of judges to try to blow smoke past
At about 1:00 a.m. tomorrow Rolla time, half the S&T crew will stagger out of the Frankfurt am Main airport before driving some 250 autobahn miles east to Mittweida (Mitt-VEYE-da), near Dresden and the Czech border. That’s where they’ll unpack the crated car, put it all back together, and email the follow-on contingent to pack all the forgotten items in their suitcases.
We’ll see if this little adventure bears any resemblance to National Lampoon’s Family Vacation series of movies.

The Slowest, Ugliest Formula SAE Car You’ve Ever Seen!

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An odd lead intro to the next story, but technically it’s true. The crate perched on the front of the slow-moving forklift holds S&T Racing’s incredible autocross car and all its support gear. It’s crated for shipment to Germany for the Formula Student Germany competition slated for the first week of August.
S&T’s vaunted Formula SAE Team, which came sooooooooo close to podium finishes at the SAE Michigan and Lincoln events, will next take the asphalt at the Hochenheim Formula 1 track near Heidelberg and Mannheim. They’ve gone head-to-head with European teams before, but it’s long been a team goal to tackle Euro teams on their home turf.
About a dozen Miner drivers, mechanics and electronic wizards will trickle into Frankfurt am Main late this month, but instead of sight-seeing or heading to the track, they’ll move east to Mittwieda, near Dresden and the Czech border. The Formula team from Hochschule Mittweida – University of Applied Sciences will host the S&T squad, sharing ideas and helping the Miners to get acclimated to mild central European summer temperatures.
The S&T crew will meet their car at the track August 31st, and go right to work tweaking it. No telling what surprises they’ll find with such a different group of tech inspectors and judges.
We’ll do our best to cover the fun and foibles as this group of S&T students gets their first taste of truly global competition.
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Damn. Just. Damn.

Today’s race was one of attrition. Of the first 39 teams to start the endurance, only 13 managed all the laps. Even some of the winged cars, Maryland and Oklahoma both of whom dominated last years’ events, were well back in the pack or simply pulled off, unable to continue. Towards the end of the race only one non-winged car, Texas A&M was competitive with KU, S&T, Washington, and UT-Arlington. Even Mizzou, who “drove it like they stole it”, suffered a spinout that ended their day.
And then it became a two-car race……….
KU started chipping away at Arlington’s laptime and then the Miners pulled out on the track to do the same to the Jayhawks. S&T ran to just slip by the competition, not to destroy them with wild driving. Just finish.
Neither team could gain much ground on the other, but the Miners did manage to edge past the Jayhawks in lap times. That differential was expected to widen as Rolla’s driver got attuned to the track, but somehow Kansas regained the lead while S&T seemed to lose an edge.
Then spectators, engineers and laymen alike, noticed a change in S&T’s rear wing. The critically-adjusted device seemed to be dipping just a bit and swaying in sharp corners, adding fractions of a second to S&T’s lap times. Something was going very wrong, and just a lap later car #71 pulled into the pits unable to continue.
This wiped out a certain podium finish for the Miners, possibly overall victory for only the second time in S&T’s 20+ year racing history. A second bitter DNF (Did Not Finish) pill this season.
No self-respecting reporter/blogger would stick a microphone in their faces to ask the ubiquitous and moronic “How do you feel now?”question, for fear that a large metric tool might fit, well, pretty much anywhere.
And now? This team has been targeting the SAE Student competition at the Hockenheimring Formula 1 track near Mannheim, Germany, for several years. That event is slated for the first week of August. Let’s see if today’s (mechanical and emotional) damage will pull the plug on their plans to pack up the car and go up against the best teams in the world. Which does, by the way, include the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
Here’s betting this weekend will really make the Miners mad! And that they’ll get some real international experience. And come back more conversant in German.

The Track Is Heating Up!

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About 11:00 a.m. event officials changed the track status form “wet” to “damp”, meaning teams can decide which type of tires to use. A few spots had puddles deep enough to make cool-looking rooster tails, but by now everyone has switched to dry tires.
As far as scoring goes the Miners took 5th in design, adding to their point total. Accumulative scores aren’t posted yet, so the top teams are carefully plotting their strategies. Top goal? Finish the race!
The KU Jayhawks edged past S&T in design and are making a strong run for 1st place. The Miners are considering a slightly conservative race, relying more on their technical skills over sheer aggressiveness. Play to their strengths in the corners, bring it home in one piece, and trust in the drivers.
To give you an idea of how grueling this event is, of the first 15 cars to tackle the course this morning, only three managed to complete all laps. About an hour from now the most experienced and committed teams will run, so the dreaded “Did Not Finish” (DNF) tag should all but disappear.