Revved and Ready

A team of eight Bradley students from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) are competing against 119 other universities in the Formula SAE student competition at the Michigan International Speedway, May 8 – 11. Each team designs and fabricates a Formula racecar, which is judged on the design and engineering. 

SAE president, Jordan Tatgenhorst, said the project provides students with a hands-on way to learn about engines and other components outside of a class setting. “It is mainly a design competition and then the teams fabricate the cars themselves. For our senior project, there are four of us working on the drivetrain—myself, team lead Liam Hughes, Jradon Smith and James Perozzi—and fabricating the whole car with some underclassman.” 

Last year the four seniors participated in the event but they didn’t pass the preliminary noise test so they weren’t allowed to proceed. Komatsu is sponsoring the group and has lent a hand with some of the more difficult welding projects. 

The construction is taking place in the machine shop in the basement of the Business and Engineering Convergence Center (BECC). “The competition is really cool. There are a lot of schools that spend a lot of money on their cars and we get to see different bodywork and how they modified their engines,” Tatgenhorst explained. 

Students are hoping the car makes it through the initial static judging events which include a Tilt Test to check for fluid leaks and to ensure all tires remain on the ground; a noise test under 110 decibels; a brake test where all wheels lock up and the engine stays on. “We have to push the car around everywhere with someone always sitting in it, so if we don't pass an event, we have to push it all the way back to the paddock to fix the issue,” she said. “The car has to pass technical inspection before we can do anything else. You can reconfigure it as many times as you want until it closes on Friday.”

If they get past the static events, then they move forward to the dynamic events which include acceleration, skidpad (going in a figure eight and trying to get the fastest time), autocross (cone obstacle course) and endurance (a 13-mile race on the last day).

“I learned that the effort you put into building the car and making it to competition is worth it once you get there and are able to see all the teams. It’s fun competing against big schools,” Tatgenhorst said. 

Overall, this competition provides students with a memorable experience and valuable life lessons. “You learn project management skills and how to source things as well as learn how to fabricate a running vehicle. I’ve made good connections in this organization,” said Jradon Smith. 

Emily Potts

Jradon Smith, Jordan Tatgenhorst and Liam Hughes assembling the SAE racecar.