BROOKLYN, Mich. – The Global Formula Racing team from Oregon State University last week went to Michigan, the ancestral home of the automotive industry, and won the 2010 Formula SAE national championship in collegiate car racing.
The OSU contenders beat 122 other teams from around the world, many of which had far more funding, long-standing support from automotive companies and tradition of success in this event. In Formula SAE racing, small, student-built racing cars are judged on many factors, ranging from speed and endurance to body design and even business presentations.
“In this competition, our team just dominated,” said Robert Paasch, an OSU associate professor of mechanical engineering and team adviser. “This is just a juggernaut of a team.”
OSU was part of a “Global Formula Racing” team, in which OSU students have joined forces with a group in Germany from Duale Hochschule Baden Wurttemberg-Ravensburg. That international collaboration, Paasch said, is not only unusual but also part of the team strength. Design, manufacturing and testing was done at both schools.
“Mechanical and automotive design is now being done by people working together from all over the world,” Paasch said. “That’s the way the industry works these days. So by getting used to that process, our students are not only becoming better at what they do, they’re getting ready for future careers. Some people are saying this is the most innovative approach to student racing competition they’ve ever seen.”
The Global Formula Racing team will compete in six events this year, but the Michigan competition is considered the national championship in Formula SAE racing. Two cars have been built, one that will race in North America and one in European competitions.
The Michigan event is the first and original competition in SAE college racing, and the largest of its kind in the world. Almost all of the best teams were present, including competitors from Japan, China, Korea, Europe, South America and elsewhere. OSU placed ahead of many other prominent universities, such as the University of Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, as well as leading international teams from the University of Stuttgart, Technical University of Munich, and others. An event held in Europe each year is considered the world championship, and OSU students will also participate in that.
OSU placed first in several categories, including engineering design; autocross and endurance event scores; top overall performance in dynamic events; body design; new and innovative design concepts; endurance; and presentation. The awards brought the team about $11,000 in prize money, some new racing tires and a day of free testing at Goodyear’s test facility.
Almost every aspect of business and engineering is reflected in these student competitions, such as designing the car, building for both speed and endurance, even developing budgets and presenting the project as a business model. SAE racing is becoming more popular among U.S. colleges and is hugely popular in Europe, where almost every large university with an engineering program sponsors a team.
The OSU success, Paasch said, is a reflection both of the quality of engineering and business education at the university, its collaboration with German counterparts and some genuinely driven students.
“We’ve been getting better and better in these events and making progress for some years,” he said. “Now we’ve beaten most of the best teams in the world, won the national championship, and will face some other very good teams from Australia in our European competitions, including the world champion event at Hockenheim, Germany.
“But it’s clear to everyone now that the road to the world championship will have to go through OSU.”