WPI Formula SAE Team Returns with Competition Honors

Contact: Neil Norum, WPI Media & Community Relations

Worcester, Mass. A twenty-person WPI student Formula SAE team returned from Pontiac, Mich. several days after the univesity's annual commencment in late May. They reported some good news and some bad news. The good news was they had tied for a first place with Rochester Institute of Technology in best presentation honors while taking a fifth place in cost analysis. They also took home a second place Lear Award for design. The bad news was they didn't finish the endurance run, the final event and worth 40 percent of the total score, because of a mechanical glitch. They thus placed 34th among the 108 college teams participating.

"Overall, this was a successful effort punctuated by some superb performances," says Ken Stafford, manager of academic initiatives at WPI. "The first place in presentations is the only first place we've ever received in any event. The fifth place cost event is also one of the top finishes ever, up from 21st last year," he notes. "While it would have been great to have finished all events, only 55 teams made it to the autocross, where we placed among the top third."

Texas A&M University took first place, outpointing runner-up University of Wisconsin.

The Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competition is now in its 22nd year. It's a design competition that challenges collegiate engineering students to conceive, design, fabricate and compete with purpose-built formula-style racing cars. Restrictions on chassis and engine design challenge the creativity and imagination of the students. This year, engineering students from universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan, and the United Kingdom competed.

All teams were evaluated by a panel of judges on the design of the car, the oral presentation of the project, and in cost analysis. Autocross (speed and handling), endurance/fuel economy, and acceleration made up the three on-track events. The teams competed in only six of the planned seven events due to inclement weather the first two days of the four-day event. The skid pad event was cancelled due to darkness on Saturday evening.

Formula SAE® is widely recognized as the national championship of college engineering. It has been sponsored for the past six years by a consortium of the "big three" U.S. automobile manufacturers -- General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler. For complete Formula SAE(R) results, and more information about Formula SAE(R) and other student design competitions, log on to SAE's website at http://www.sae.org

Each team must design their cars on the premise that a manufacturing corporation has hired them to design a limited production car (1000 units) aimed towards the non-professional weekend autocrosser. As a result, the car must posses outstanding performance as well as ease of maintenance, solid reliability and low cost. The car must also be aesthetically pleasing, comfortable and innovative.

At the competition, each car is judged against the competitors. The cars are judged in static design, dynamic abilities and track performance. The static events include categories such as production cost analysis, design, and a marketing presentation. The dynamic events include skid-pad and acceleration performance tests. To test the car's at-the-limit track abilities, the single "hot" lap autocross event is run. Reliability and fuel economy are then judged in the endurance event, the highlight of the competition.