An army of students wearing khakis, brown shoes and blue button-downs embroidered in maize with “MRacing” on the front, stood smiling around their preliminarily finished product Tuesday evening: a Formula SAE race car.
The unveiling of the team’s MR-14 car came in the College of Engineering-sponsored program’s 28th year and after nearly 10 months of work designing and manufacturing this year’s vehicle.
The event, held in the Junge Family Champions Center at Crisler Center, celebrated the completion of this process. In the presentation, College of Engineering Dean David Munson spoke about the location’s significance.
“Right here, adjacent to Michigan Stadium … it is a perfect setting to recall the oft-repeated phrase from our legendary football coach, Bo Schembechler: ‘The team, the team, the team,’” he said. “MRacing is successful year after year because talented and generous individuals dedicate themselves to the team.”
Munson spoke of the state-of-the-art engineering facilities that allowed students to create a Formula SAE car. He complimented the “creative community” of “bright minds and innovative problem-solvers” spanning from all disciplines of campus that contributed to the project.
Engineering senior Joe Martin, MRacing team captain, said the main issue this year’s team faced in building its car was to improve its aerodynamics package.
This package, he said, has three main physical components: the car’s bottom wing, under-tray and top wing. These components create a pressure differential that ultimately pushes downward to give the car better traction.
“It kind of sucks the car down to the ground,” he said. “It’s the same concept that keeps airplanes in the air, just reversed to keeping the car on the ground.”
Engineering Prof. Jason Martz, MRacing’s faculty adviser, said the program’s value comes from students’ ability to learn by doing.
“Formula SAE provides us with a beneficial, real-world aspect to our students’ education,” he said. “The strong fundamentals acquired here in the classroom at the University of Michigan are applied to real-world problems through participation on this team.”
Martz added that concepts such as internal combustion theory and thermodynamics find practical application in the building of a motor vehicle, which makes them more pertinent to study.
Joe Fadool, the president of BorgWarner Morse TEC, spoke at the event as well. BorgWarner — an international company that develops technologies to improve motor vehicle emissions, fuel economy and performance — is MRacing’s title sponsor.
“We believe in the work that all the administrators and professors are doing right here in Ann Arbor,” he said. “It is this type of work that develops the next generation of scientists, engineers and leaders that we need for our industry.”
Fadool also encouraged the students involved with MRacing to consider the automotive industry as a viable future career option — contrary to what some might argue.
“The automotive industry is back,” he said.
In the coming weeks, MRacing students will test-drive the Formula SAE car. Four of the organization’s members, all of whom have some form of previous racing experience, will operate the vehicle in upcoming competitions.
The vehicle will compete in three races: one at the Michigan International Speedway, another in Lincoln, Nebraska and one at the Hockenheimring, a race track in Germany.
Martin said the unveiling is an important “first milestone” for the team prior to competing in the string of racing events.
“It’s the first time that everybody gets to see all the components together,” he said. “You get to see all of your work culminate into something that looks like a car instead of just a bunch of parts lying around.”
Regardless of the vehicle’s performance in upcoming races, Munson added, the MRacing program’s value exceeds its competitive results. That said, an MRacing vehicle has placed in the top 10 in nine out of its last 10 competitions.
Martin added that their organization ranks 36th out of 500 teams in the world.
“We look forward to this year’s Formula SAE competition series,” Munson said. “Yes, we want to win, but regardless of the outcome, because of the experiences and the skills created by this opportunity, every team member is a winner, and those of you who support them are victors.”