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