BY HILLARY BOK
for the Daily
Published May 31, 2010
Correction Appended: An earlier version of this article misidentified MRacing’s 2011 team leader. He is Nathan Lusk.
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When Engineering senior Katherine Lapham got behind the wheel of a formula racecar and accelerated from zero to 75 miles in 3.766 seconds, she achieved the fastest acceleration time in the MRacing team’s 16-year history.
Finishing second overall at the Michigan International Speedway in a race which took place between May 12 and May 15, MRacing competed against 120 other teams from colleges and universities from around the world. The team took first place in a number of categories, including those evaluating acceleration, innovation and development.
The team’s achievement is the product of 25 students' efforts, in the past year, to design and produce a racecar to compete in the Society of Automotive Engineers International Collegiate Design Series. Since its inception as a student organization in 1986, MRacing has produced a new car design each year.
Engineering senior and 2010 team leader Chai Pocknett said the MRacing program can be addicting for those who choose to join the team.
“To put it in perspective, I’m from Massachusetts, I joined the team as a freshman in fall 2006 and I’ve been home probably a month total since then,” he said. “Once people join the team, they get hooked on it. They get internships in the area, so they are here for the summer. We meet every week just to stay up to date and stay on schedule.”
While there are a number of Formula SAE events that take place around the world, the MRacing team only competes in two of the international events due to time constraints and a limited budget. The team is scheduled to participate in its next race between August 3 and 6, which will be held in Hockenheim, Germany.
“It’s a very tight cycle, and we have a very limited budget in comparison to the European teams. Some of the teams have million-Euro budgets,” said Lapham, the 2010 driver and project manager. “Our monetary budget is around $75,000, and with (material) donations we have almost $200,000 total.”
She added that the team forms close relationships with its sponsors, which has helped members of MRacing succeed in the competitions and professionally. Lapham, who already has a job at Chrysler as an engine calibration engineer, said MRacing has a 100-percent employment rate for graduating members.
“The biggest thing that we offer our sponsors is the opportunity to recruit from our team,” Lapham said. “Our sponsors love what we do. They are very, very enthusiastic. It’s nice being able to talk to people who are just as excited about this as you are.”
Ford, Bosch Motorsport and BorgWarner are a few of the companies that help fuel the team’s success through sponsorship. Lapham added that without that outside support, it would be very difficult for the team to continue competing.
In addition to the private companies, the University has also started to provide financial sponsorship. Engineering junior Nathan Lusk, the 2011 team leader, said the aid from the University has been particularly helpful for the team.
“They’ve given us money at the beginning of the year, which has allowed us to start manufacturing a lot earlier than years previous,” Lusk said. “I think this has contributed to the success of the team a lot.”
MRacing, Lapham said, provides students with hands-on experience in working through the design process from concept to completion along with putting the team’s final product to the test against international competition.
And the team faces stiff competition, according to Lapham. Many of the European teams have students at the graduate level with more experience in the field. FSAE guidelines permit participation from students up to the post doctorate level.
“We’re a bunch of undergrads who are constantly re-inventing what we’re doing,” Lapham said.