Final moments before the engineering students' vehicle is tested in the Formula SAE competition.
Published on Tuesday, May 22, 2012
The senior capstone design project allows mechanical engineering students to apply what they’ve been learning in classes and co-ops to a real-world setting.
As part of this project, a team of students spends months building a vehicle for the Formula SAE Michigan, a competition that tests all aspects of automotive design and fabrication, including frame, engine, suspension and body. Overseen this year by two faculty advisors, Scott Kiefer, Ph.D., and Stephen Kuchnicki, Ph.D., the project provides a first opportunity for students to work on something from the initial stages of concept and design all the way through physically creating a finished product.
Working through the entire process emphasizes the importance of good communication. “I learned how important it is to communicate with your teammates,” said senior mechanical engineering major Brandon Peterson, from Westgrove, Pa. Coordination within and between design teams on this project often meant the difference between getting something right the first time and spending hours solving problems that could have been avoided.
Advice from last year’s team also had a significant impact on this year’s project. When discussing the 2011 Formula SAE competition, Kuchnicki said, “The judges told our team that, in order to be taken seriously, they needed to drop the weight of the vehicle by about 20 percent.”
Although the 2012 team did not meet this goal, they did manage to shave off almost 9 percent from last year’s weight, which contributed to their of 68th-place finish in the overall rankings of 120 teams. This finish marked a significant improvement from last year’s 81st-place out of 123 teams.
No matter the results, the Formula SAE competition in Michigan and the months spent leading up to it have given the senior mechanical engineering students valuable, hands-on experience and perhaps a new outlook on real-world applications.
Ethan Porter, a senior mechanical engineering student from Hanover, Pa., recalled one of the most memorable moments of the competition: when another team’s car caught fire.
Nobody was hurt, but Porter said, “It brought up how, if we don’t design it well, things could go wrong. People’s lives are at stake.”
Evolution of YCP Racing
YCP Racing has evolved over the past six years. The Mechanical Engineering program entered two cars in an SAE Mini Baja competition in 2005, placing 19th and 44th out of
142 competitors. More recently, York College has transitioned into Formula SAE events (beginning in 2007). Over the past five years, the team has progressed substantially with
What is Formula SAE?
Formula SAE is a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). The first competition was started back in 1979 and was originally called the Mini Indy.
The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving.
Formula SAE promotes careers and excellence in engineering as it encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry, including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances. Formula SAE takes students out of the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences.
2012 YCP Racing Students