Annette Hacker, director,
Office: (515) 294-4777
Iowa State University students designed and built this race car for the annual Formula SAE competition. Some mechanical problems knocked the car back to a mid-pack finish. Photo provided by Iowa State's Formula SAE Team.
See more photos below.
5-18-09 Update: Mechanical problems cost Iowa State University's Formula SAE Team a lot of positions during competition May 13-16 at Michigan International Speedway. The team placed 59th out of 91 scored teams in the annual competition sponsored by SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers. Iowa State's team scored best in the design and cost contests, finishing 12th in both. Nick Krauel, a junior from Audubon who's studying meteorology and is the team's project director, said the team had to pull out of the competition's 13.7-mile endurance event because of problems with the car's starter and clutch. But, he said, the team learned a valuable lesson for next year: "We learned we need to get the car done ahead of time," he said. "We need to be prepared." Graz University of Technology in Austria won the competition's overall title.
Nick Krauel, Iowa State Formula SAE Team, (712) 254-0115, NKrauel@gmail.com
Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917, firstname.lastname@example.org
Iowa State Formula SAE racer takes shape, expected to be a fast competitor
AMES, Iowa -- There's a lot of confidence in the Formula SAE garage on the Iowa State University campus.
Barring a gearbox breakdown or a drive shaft failure, "I think this car has the potential to be in the top 10," said James Rasmussen, a senior from Audubon who's studying mechanical engineering. "That engine will be one of the most heavily modified single-cylinder engines out there."
He was pointing to the car's ethanol-powered Yamaha YZF 450 engine. It's an engine that normally runs in all-terrain vehicles. But this one will sit in the rear of a mini open-wheel race car designed and built by a team of Iowa State students. They'll compete against 119 other university teams May 13-16 at Michigan International Speedway in one of three annual contests sponsored by SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers.
The Iowa State students took that stock engine, bored out a wider cylinder and lengthened the piston stroke. The result is a jump to 565 cubic centimeters of displacement and a lot more horsepower.
But that's not all that's fueling the team's confidence, said James Whisler, a sophomore from Eagan, Minn., who's studying mechanical engineering.
First, the team has a nearly finished car three weeks before competition. That means there's time for testing and tuning before pulling into the Brooklyn, Mich., speedway. Last year's car wasn't finished before the team left for the racetrack and the team never managed to get it running.
Second, Whisler said there's a new emphasis on design and engineering. Building this car wasn't a matter of following 105 pages of rules and fitting all the parts together. It was a matter of designing the best way to follow the rules and account for the hundreds of details that create a fast and competitive car.
And third, they've made some of the usual improvements: They've built a light car. They've made the suspension softer and more responsive. And they've developed a way to push buttons on the steering wheel to electronically shift gears.
"This car should be fast," Whisler said. "It should be perfect for what we race in."
The Formula SAE Series isn't quite Formula 1 or the IndyCar Series; cars aren't racing each other for the checkered flag. They're competing one at a time in five racing events: acceleration, cornering, autocross (a quick and curvy half-mile course that can be raced at average speeds of 25-30 mph), endurance (a 13.7 mile race that features top speeds of 65 mph) and fuel economy.
The teams also try to impress judges during a technical inspection, a cost and manufacturing analysis, a business presentation and an engineering design contest.
Nick Krauel, a junior from Audubon who's studying meteorology and is the team's project director, said this year's budget of about $100,000 should be enough to build another competitive race car. Major sponsors include ICM Inc., a Colwich, Kan., company that designs and builds ethanol plants; SolidWorks Corp., a Concord, Mass., company that develops 3D design software; and the Iowa State University Engineering Student Council.
As team members prepared for an afternoon of testing, Krauel said he feels good about the team's business and engineering work.
"I'm confident we can get a top 20 finish," he said. "I'd love to finish better than that. I do think we have a good shot at getting in the top 10 again."
A look around the race car:
Members of Iowa State's Formula SAE Team test this year's race car on a dynamometer. The dyno test measures the car's power output. Photo provided by Iowa State's Formula SAE Team.
Iowa State University's Formula SAE Team is starting to test the mini open-wheel race car it designed and built. The goal is a fast and reliable car for the Formula SAE Series competition May 13-16 at Michigan International Speedway. Team members think this year's car could be good enough to return the team to the competition's top 10.
"I think this car has the potential to be in the top 10. That engine will be one of the most heavily modified single-cylinder engines out there."
"It really punches you in the back if you let it."
James Rasmussen, a senior from Audubon who's studying mechanical engineering and is a member of Iowa State's Formula SAE Team
This year's Iowa State Formula SAE Team: