Outstanding Student Engineering Skills on Display at Recent Formula SAE-A University Challenge

A record number of thirty team entries with some seven hundred students from universities throughout Australia, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Japan and USA took part in the 2015 Formula SAE-A at Calder Park Raceway, Melbourne just prior to the Christmas-New Year break.

Formula SAE-A is part of the Formula Student international competition where students are required to design and construct a single seater prototype race car within a twelve months’ time frame using either an internal combustion engine of no more than 600cc or alternatively an electric motor of no more than 85 kw.

The young students who are studying disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, informatics, mechatronics, management, business studies and marketing, must seek sponsors, establish budgets, project manage and develop business plans and detailed market strategies. They must then present their entire case to a judging panel or board of industry experts to convince them the design is a profitable investment. Strict guidelines and rules for the Formula SAE-A event cover more than the design of the car and include accurately costing the construction with an objective to substantiate a case for economical or cheap (theoretical) production.

The competition runs over four days with the first two days set aside for registrations, team and driver briefings and static events. Days three and four are intense with every aspect of the vehicle’s engineering compliance, track testing plus an autocross event where the skills of the driver and the ability of the vehicle are tested.

The aerodynamics of the vehicle play an important part and regulation changes this year meant that rear wing endplates had to be in line with the insides of the rear tyres. In previous years teams were allowed to have rear wing endplates in line with the outside of the rear wheels.

The competitors’ vehicles are carefully scrutineered for compliance to Formula SAE-A’s stringent construction guidelines and all safety aspects surrounding motorsport racing including stability must be passed before they are cleared to proceed or enter the race track. Once scrutineering is completed a series of dynamic events are conducted including an acceleration test over 75 metres, figure eight maneuverability and a single lap time trial of the course in reverse.  The final test worth the most points in the competition is a grueling 22km time-trial that tests the limit of the machine and the driver. Fuel economy / CO² emissions are tested in relation to the design in today’s economy.

Australian university student entrants have been outstandingly successful since the competition’s inception in 2001 with the Monash University team standout winners having taken the overall winners’ trophy for the seventh year in succession. The Monash University team points tally in the 2015 competition was 894.5 and intense competition saw the University of Melbourne second with 847.3 points and a New Zealand team entrant from the University of Canterbury, third with 822.1 points.

An electric vehicle section commenced just five years ago to encourage university research and development in the ‘Mobility for Tomorrow’.  The development from just two entrants in 2010 to six entrants in 2015 reflects the exciting growth in this technology. The electric vehicle winner in 2015 was RMIT University with a total of 680.7 points following on from their successes in this section in four previous SAE-A Formula competitions.

The event organiser, The Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia  (SAE-A) encompasses a large spectrum of the Australasian mobility including aerospace, light and heavy rail, heavy commercial transport, construction equipment, agriculture, mining, caravan, aftermarket and the service and repair of on-road and off-road vehicles.

“Students participating in the Formula SAE-A event are always keenly sought after by industry on graduation. These students gain such broad ranging skills from participating that they are virtually industry ready at the end of their studies and are able to contribute in a wide range of industries,” said SAE-A President Adrian Feeney. “2016 has once again demonstrated the amazing talent of young engineering students, many of whom will go on to make valuable contributions in a wide variety of industries both within Australia and internationally,” he said.

ENDS

29 January 2016


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