Month: June 2021

Q&A with Formula SAE

Michigan Tech’s Formula SAE Enterprise builds a competition vehicle based on the concept of an affordable race car geared toward the weekend autocrosser. The team competes in SAE Collegiate Design Series Formula SAE events held in various locations across the country. For competition, the team prepares a written design report, a cost analysis and a business case to present to a panel of judges. After passing a technical inspection, the vehicle competes in a series of dynamic events, including acceleration, skid pad, autocross, endurance, and efficiency.

Michigan Tech Formula SAE has a long history of top-performing cars and has gained a reputation for developing cutting-edge designs that help shape the future of racing. Recently I had a chance to catch up with two members of the Formula SAE Enterprise for a Q&A session to learn more about the team’s plans and efforts: Max Urquhart, Formula SAE President and Electrical Engineering student, and Nathan Sodini, an Engineering Management student who serves as Formula SAE’s Business Manager.

Q&A with Max Urquhart, Electrical Engineer (Left), President, and Nathan Sodini, Engineering Management (Right), Business Manager.

What is the focus of the Formula SAE?

The focus of Formula SAE is to continuously improve our cars, our members, and the enterprise program. We provide an environment that enables our members to grow into industry professionals.

What were some of Formula SAE’s goals for this academic year?

FSAE’s top goal for this year was to place in the top 30 overall in the SAE International Formula SAE competition. We also had many advanced projects that occurred this year, the largest being the electrification of our 2019 competition car the F-276, now becoming the e-276. This is the first electric formula SAE car Michigan Tech FSAE has produced. 

What are some of the projects FSAE worked on this year, or are planing to work on in the future?

We have a multitude of projects that were implemented this year! Our projects included electronic limited slip differential, active four-wheel steering, an active drag reduction system (DRS), and the construction and testing of the e-276, the team’s first electric formula SAE car. 

What competitions has FSAE participated in this year?

In April, FSAE participated in the Business Presentation which is the first step of the Formula SAE series competition. The Business Presentation is where teams are given a prompt to create a strategy to lead their companies (race teams). The Business Presentation encompasses engineering strategy, finances, accounting, forecasting, marketing, and management. Students then present to a panel of judges, pitching their projections using a slide show and supporting documents. 

What does this competition involve? What does your team have to do in order to compete?

Competition involves Static and Dynamic Events. The Business Presentation falls into the Static category. Statics Events include the Business Presentation, Technical Inspection, Design Review, and the Knowledge Event. Dynamic Events include, Acceleration, Endurance, Brake Testing, and Skid Pad, and Sound. 

The team placed 20th in the Business Presentation – what happens next?

Our team was very excited to place in the top 20 this year! We reviewed the feedback provided to us by the judges, and will use that to propel next year’s presentation. Next the Business Team has the Real Case Cost Scenario. The team will need to respond with a strategy that allows for the IPO of the team to raise capital to increase production of FSAE cars. 

In May, we participated in the Formula Knowledge Event and placed 21st out of 132 teams. The Business Presentation was just the first step to move forward in the Knowledge Event. The Knowledge Event includes a design paper, cost report, oral design and cost presentation, and educational online workshops. Find more information on the FSAE competition series here, as well as team results here.

What’s the general feeling among members as you conclude this academic year?

Team members were excited that we were able to build the car in person and that we’ve been able to accomplish our goals for the year. We are a very young team with 50% being brand new members, that excitement and passion is great fuel for our team! 

What can the Michigan Tech community do to support or cheer you on for future competitions?

The Michigan Tech community can continue their support by following us on social media! Instagram @mtuformula Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mtuformula and our website https://formulasae.mtu.edu/. Learn more about Enterprise and Advanced Motorsports Enterprise


Supermileage Systems Enterprise Earns 2nd Place Finish in 2021 SAE Supermileage Competition

For the second year in a row, Michigan Tech’s Supermileage Systems Enterprise (SSE) took 2nd place overall in the 42nd annual SAE Supermileage competition, held virtually on May 13th & 14th. Per  SAE’s website, the engineering design goal for SAE Supermileage is to develop and construct a single-person, fuel-efficient vehicle that complies with the competition rules. Vehicles run a specified course to obtain the highest combined kilometers per liter (miles per gallon) rating. Students also participate in a design segment consisting of a written report and verbal presentation. Like last year, competition was limited to a virtual knowledge event (report and presentation only) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When asked about this year’s Supermileage experience, Rick Berkey, professor of practice in the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology Dept. and faculty advisor for SSE since 2008, shared the following: “Our team was really looking forward to an in-person event, especially after logging nearly 6,500 hours on vehicle design, fabrication, assembly, and testing. SAE’s decision in late March to cancel the vehicle competition portion was disappointing, but understandable. I am extremely proud of the way SSE students took the news and maintained focus, pushing ahead to assemble and test their vehicle before the end of the semester. I am also impressed with the way they navigated pandemic-related restrictions and challenges all year. When the 2nd place result was announced, I was absolutely thrilled, but not surprised.

“Our design report scores have been the highest in three out of the last four competitions. And this year, SAE provided a new design ‘twist’, challenging teams to evaluate their ability to traverse the competition track in the opposite direction. This includes a steep 6% grade in one section, which has direct implications on powertrain decisions and fuel efficiency. Using vehicle simulation and road load analysis, we were able to justify our powertrain decisions and effectively communicate our understanding of these impacts, which contributed to our strong finish. In addition to congratulating all SSE student members, I would also like to thank SAE International, our AMS sponsors, SSE alumni, and several MTU colleagues who provided additional guidance and mentorship to SSE. This is a perfect example of what makes Michigan Tech’s Enterprise Program so impactful. What a great way to end a challenging year — and with back-to-back 2nd place finishes, SSE is even more eager to return in the Fall with our sights set on taking top honors in the 2022 competition!”


HIDE Upgrades Lab, Invests in Team Growth

By Rick Berkey, Professor of Practice and Director, The Enterprise Program

This year, the Humane Interface Design Enterprise (HIDE) used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to implement needed upgrades to their lab in Rekhi Hall 116. Advised by Dr. Robert Pastel and hosted in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Computing, HIDE focuses on software development and usability research, with a goal to provide its student members a headstart in their careers by immersing them in a collaborative environment where they can gain real-world experience. HIDE was originally launched as a new enterprise in Fall 2011, partnering with Chrysler (now Stellantis) on usability projects for the U-Connect infotainment system used in vehicles from the Fiat 500 to the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. HIDE is highly interdisciplinary, attracting students majoring in Applied Cognitive Sciences and Human Factors, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Software Engineering. Over the past ten years, HIDE has conducted dozens of projects and continues to engage with external project sponsors. A new project this year with ArcelorMittal USA (now Cleveland-Cliffs) involves development of a web-based application and database to enhance the management of technical service organization based on territories. A continuing project with the U.S. Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center aims to develop and evaluate different user interfaces for a real-time strategy  game for commander training applications. Additionally, HIDE recently partnered with local non-profit Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFOE) to develop an easy-to-use transportation and scheduling system that allows LBFOE staff and volunteers to assist local elderly residents with medical appointments. In addition to the externally-sponsored projects, HIDE has six other development projects with multiple campus stakeholders.

All of this hands-on project work requires a functional lab with technology for collaboration and development. With physical distancing restrictions in place across campus this year, HIDE leveraged accumulated team funds to make a strategic investment in their lab. HIDE’s Treasurer and Computer Science Major Jason Holtrey led the project, specifying the needed hardware and coordinating purchases with the Enterprise Program Office and Michigan Tech IT. This included new computers and monitors, a large wall-mounted display, an iPad, an Android-based mobile device, a Vive Virtual Reality headset, and several Raspberry Pi microcomputers. After installing and configuring the new computers, the flat-screen display was mounted at the end of April, thus completing the project. When asked about the lab upgrade, Dr. Pastel stated, “HIDE membership is appreciative of the work that Jason spent building the lab and is eager to start development in the Fall.” With campus restrictions now easing and plans for a fully in-person Fall 2021 semester, HIDE members will return to a well-equipped lab that positions them for continued growth and hands-on development!


Advanced Motorsport Teams Succeed Across Multiple SAE International Competitions

Michigan Tech’s Enterprise vehicle competition teams, Blizzard Baja, Clean Snowmobile Challenge, Formula SAE, and Supermileage Systems, each competed in their respective annual SAE International competitions. The results are as follows:

Blizzard Baja took 18th overall out of 83 teams, and 15th out of 58 teams in the endurance event of the Baja SAE Baja Louisville – Validation Event. In Baja SAE, students are tasked with designing and building a single-seat, all-terrain sporting vehicle that is to be a prototype for a reliable, maintainable, ergonomic, and economic production vehicle that serves a recreational user market. For more information check out the results of the Baja SAE competition.

Competition held: May 20-23, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky

Clean Snowmobile Challenge took 1st place overall, in both the Spark-Ignited Category and Compression Ignited Category. In the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge students are tasked with building and enhancing their engineering design and project management skills by re-engineering an existing snowmobile to reduce emissions and noise. For more information, check out the results of the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge competition.

Competition held: Virtually

Formula SAE took 21st out of 132 teams in the Formula SAE Knowledge Event – Combustion. The Formula SAE series competitions challenge student teams to conceive, design, fabricate, develop, and compete with small, formula-style vehicles. The competitions give teams the chance to demonstrate and prove both their creativity and engineering skills in comparison to teams from other universities around the world. For more information, about Formula SAE experience this year, check out this Q&A with members from the team, dive deeper into the results of the Formula SAE competition.

Competition held: Virtually

Finally, Supermileage Systems Enterprise took 2nd place overall, for a second year running in the SAE Supermileage competition. The engineering design goal of SAE Supermileage is to develop and construct a single-person, fuel-efficient vehicle that complies with the competition rules and is able to obtain the highest combined km/L (mpg) rating while running a specific course. To learn more of Supermileage System’s experience at competition this year, check out this extended article, or visit the SAE Supermileage competition results page.

Competition held: Virtually


Welcome from the Enterprise Program Office

Welcome to our Summer 2021 issue of the Enterprise Program Newsletter. We hope this newsletter finds everyone in good health, wherever you may be. With the 2021-22 academic year now complete, we are finally enjoying some great summer weather here in the Keweenaw. And of course, along with the great weather comes the start of our local construction season – but such is life!  

Students sitting near Husky Statue

As you read through this issue, I hope you share our sense of pride as we highlight just a few of the numerous successes and accomplishments of our Enterprise teams this year. As I’ve said before, I often find inspiration in our students, and this year was certainly no exception. When faced with an extremely challenging learning environment, brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic, students in Enterprise did what Huskies do best: they rolled up their sleeves, supported one another, got creative, and made the best of a less-than-ideal situation. Whether it be performing a lab upgrade, participating in a fully-virtual Design Expo, competing in one of the many collegiate design competitions, or developing solutions to industry-sponsored projects, students in Enterprise continued to ‘discover, develop, and deliver’, just as they have for more than 20 years. Finally, if you have a project idea or want to get more involved with Enterprise, please reach out to discuss your ideas and interests. And, our front door is always open, if you’re ever in the Houghton area and wish to visit. Until then, enjoy this issue and have a great summer — Go Huskies!


A Message from the Dean

Canal view of backside of Michigan Tech’s campus.

By Dr. Adrienne Minerick, Pavlis Honors College, Interim Dean

Spring has now sprung in the Keweenaw after some significant temperature swings and frosts later into May.  Our Enterprise staff and teams weathered a challenging year with grace and unparalleled dedication to achieving project milestones through virtual and safely orchestrated hands-on sessions.  It was with utmost pride that Enterprise staff, faculty advisors and I observed the creativity and rigor from our students culminating in an outstanding virtual Design Expo.  A heartfelt thank you to our industry partners who continued to sponsor projects during a year of economic uncertainty.  We are ever grateful for these long-standing relationships that play a huge role in broadening the multi-disciplinary technical and power skills of our students while delivering designs, solutions, and prototypes to our partners.  

Quality things stand the test of time and Enterprise is a perfect example of this.  This summer, the Pavlis Honors College is moving organizationally within Michigan Tech; this move presents an opportunity to reflect upon the Enterprise program and look for ways to further strengthen the learning experiences and grow the breadth of opportunities for all Michigan Tech students.  The Enterprise program has adapted to changes many times over, growing from a small pilot project in engineering and expanding over the last 21 years into all 5 colleges with 22 teams. As we continue to ideate and envision the future of Enterprise, we welcome input and engagement from all Enterprise alums, partners, faculty advisors, and current students.  

Two students from General and Expedition Adventure Research (GEAR)

In closing, this is an exciting time for Enterprise where investments in high impact learning will enable us to meet the changing needs of society. As our world grapples with unprecedented medical, environmental, and technological challenges, graduates from Enterprise are prepared to adapt and lead innovations right from the start of their first job. We hope you enjoy the stories of successes and failures – all valuable learning experiences – within this newsletter.