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Brad Petersen
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53 Everitt Lab
1406 W. Green St.
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 244-6376
bradp@illinois.edu

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56 Everitt Lab
1406 W. Green St.
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: (217) 300-6664
megd@illinois.edu

ECE students critical to SAE racing team

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By Bridget Maiellaro, ECE Illinois
June 10, 2008

  • Illinois' Formula Society of Automotive Engineers was recently ranked third of 53 teams at the Virginia International Raceway competition and finished 13 of 104 at the Michigan International Speedway.
  • The Illinois Formula SAE team, which was founded in 1987, works together on designing, building, and developing a small formula-style racing car each year.
  • The 2008-2009 Illinois SAE will begin the design process for next season's car during the fall semester and start to build the car's major components over winter break, lasting through the spring semester.

The University of Illinois’ Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) team was recently ranked third out of 53 teams at the Virginia International Raceway competition and finished 13 out of 104 teams at this year’s Michigan International Speedway event. While the group includes and recruits its team members from across campus, ECE students have played an integral role in its continued success.

The Illinois Formula SAE car competes at the Virginia International Raceway.
The Illinois Formula SAE car competes at the Virginia International Raceway.

"It is important for Formula SAE to have a strong ECE team because racecars have complex electrical systems that require a lot of design and maintenance," said recent ECE graduate and Formula SAE team member Jacob Foster (BSEE ’08).

Throughout his membership, Foster worked on the car’s electrical system. He was responsible for its wiring, data acquisition, and electrical durability. Foster said that his experiences in ECE labs helped him apply his knowledge of electrical systems and electronic components throughout the designing, building, and debugging stages.

ECE senior and team member Kieran Levin said the club has given opportunities and training that he doesn’t think he could have learned anywhere else.

"So far as part of this club I have done a lot of hands on engineering and learned a lot of really useful practical things...from basic machining, to some carbon fiber work, to troubleshooting automotive electronics," Levin said. "I don't think there is any class that you can find as broad a range of practical knowledge as the formula program."

The Illinois Formula SAE team, which was founded in 1987, works together on designing, building, and developing a small formula-style racing car each year. Upon completion, the car competes in various races against cars designed by students from other universities and colleges throughout the world.

The Virginia International Raceway competition took place from April 25 to April 28 in Alton, Virginia, while the Michigan International began May 14 and ended May 18 in Brooklyn, Michigan. Foster said that for Illinois Formula SAE, Virginia was practice for Michigan, which was the final competition for the Formula SAE World Cup. Even though Levin had hopes of the team finishing in the top three at Michigan, Illinois was still ranked higher than they were at the 2007 challenge, where they finished 36 out of 136 teams.

Since the Michigan International marked Illinois Formula SAE’s final competition of the season, the team has already started thinking of new ideas for next year’s car. However, the team may face some recruiting problems in the near future.

"Formula SAE is currently in desperate need of an electrical team next year because most of the members of the electrical team have just graduated," said Foster, who first learned about SAE at Engineering Open House and Quad Day.

The team’s mission is to maintain a strong program and to keep improving its cars. In addition, participants agree that the experiences on SAE will help them succeed in the future.

"It really helps to show employers that you can work on an actual successful project," Levin said. "Many employers are looking for engineers who have experience right out of school, and SAE really gives you a major advantage in this respect. Everyone who graduates has a piece of paper that says they have a degree, but not too many people can point to something like a car and say, "I designed, built, and tested that."

The 2008-2009 Illinois SAE will begin the design process for next season’s car during the fall semester and start to build the car’s major components over winter break, lasting through the spring semester. "It is really important to be part of the design in the fall because that is where you can really learn how everything works and get up to speed with how everything works and the rules."

Illinois SAE, which is open to all students, aims to provide its members with numerous educational, professional, and social activities and opportunities related to vehicles of all types, according to its Web site. For more information and updates, visit www.mechse.illinois.edu/clubs/sae/General/index.php.

2008 Formula SAE in Virginia results
Cost- 6th Place
Presentation- 9th Place
Design- 5th Place
Skidpad- 4th Place
Acceleration- 3rd Place
Hoosier Tire Autocross Award- 3rd Place
Goodyear Best Performance Award- 3rd Place
Honda Dynamic Even Award- 3rd Place
Buehler "Innovation in Mechatronics" Award- 1st Place
Overall- 3rd Place out of 53 teams

2008 Formula SAE in Michigan results
Cost- 26th Place
Presentation- Tied for 63rd Place
Design- Tied for 37th Place
Skidpad- 15th Place
Acceleration- 24th Place
Autocross- 19th Place
Endurance/Economy- 10th Place
Economy- 20th Place
Overall- 13th Place out of 104 teams

Editor's note: media inquiries should be directed to Brad Petersen, Director of Communications, at bradp@illinois.edu or (217) 244-6376.

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