SAE Formula set to incorporate new members and technology


Katlyn Campbell/Iowa State Daily

Cars built by the Formula and Baja Society of Automotive Engineers teams are displayed in the Advanced Machinery Systems Laboratory.

Mitchell Lafrance

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Formula team is headed back into the shop this semester with goals of implementing new technology and expanding their team.

SAE Formula is a team that designs and builds an open-wheel single-seat race car that competes with other colleges from around the world at various competitions.

The team will spend the fall semester building upon last year’s model and thinking of new ideas to give them a competitive edge. During the fall, they will build a mockup of the car on SolidWorks, a computer-aided design software package, that allows them to tweak parts of the car to their desire.

At the beginning of the spring semester, the team will head to their work space in the Advanced Machinery Systems Laboratory (AMSL) where they weld, fabricate and machine the majority of the car themselves.

“This year, we’re trying to incorporate an undertray to the aerodynamics package,” said Brad Bauer, technical director for Formula this year. “We’ll be running similar style front and rear wings like we did last year, but we’ll also add an undertray to get more downforce.”

An undertray is utilized along with a front wing and rear diffuser to help direct airflow under the car to create more downforce, thus allowing the car to have greater traction on the ground with little added drag.

The team is also hoping to revamp their entire chassis setup with the introduction of a hybrid chassis setup. The chassis of a car is defined as the base frame which a body is attached to.

“One thing we’re looking toward doing is a carbon fiber monocoque instead of the steel tube space frame,” said Bauer. “One of the first things we’re researching is what’s called a hybrid, which is basically everything from your main roll cage forward is a carbon fiber monocoque tub and everything behind is still a steel tube space frame, like where the engine is mounted.”

The team is in the works with this hybrid concept, and believes that the technology and resources will be available to them in about two years. A monocoque is a type of vehicle structure in which the chassis is integral with the body.

“The hybrid is kind of a unique situation,” said Jake Weltz, project director for Formula this year. “There’s not a lot of teams running the hybrid chassis. It’s more common to have just the whole complete monocoque tub.”

“The reason we’re not doing a carbon fiber rear is because of the challenges that come with it,” said Joey Greco, president of SAE and suspension team lead for Formula this year. “Those challenges kind of outweigh the cost of it at this point. It’s relatively easier to start here and build a simpler version and take it one step at a time.”

With the addition of new technology such as an aerodynamic undertray and hybrid carbon fiber monocoque, Formula is also trying to reach out to more students on campus from various different colleges.

“The last two years have seen a large growth in terms of numbers for both Formula and SAE in general,” said Greco. “We’re hoping to get more students from other colleges because this project is a lot more than just engineering.”

While there is a lot of math and engineering involved in building a car from the ground up, there are other aspects of the competition that appeal to colleges besides engineering.

“Besides building the car, we have to be able to sell it to someone who would be a weekend autocross enthusiast,” said Bauer.

This year, the team was able to implement an outreach coordinator who organizes fundraisers and newsletters for Formula. Greco explained that both Formula and Clean Snowmobile Challenge have outreach coordinators, and he hopes to have one for each of the five SAE teams.

“I thought it’d be a good experience, and Formula seemed the most interesting,” said Makenna Chapman, who leads the marketing and public relations for Formula. “It’s something I hadn’t done before and I didn’t know much about cars so I thought it’d be challenging and interesting.”

The team stressed that there’s something for everyone as a member of Formula and everyone is afforded the chance to do something hands-on.

“Working with your hands, getting experience and talking to companies is all part of the program,” said Greco. “I would say we’re a professional organization and we’re learning those skills before we get into the workforce.”