Western’s formula-car racing team, WWU Racing, came in 10th place at Formula SAE Lincoln at the Airpark in Lincoln, Nebraska June 20 - 23. This year more than 65 teams from around the globe took part in the competition.
Formula SAE Lincoln, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), is an international competition that brings engineering teams from across the globe to the United States to test their formula racing cars in various ways. Teams are scored on their car’s cost report, presentation, the design of the vehicle, acceleration of the car, a skid pad test, autocross test, endurance race, and the car’s overall efficiency.
“In my mind, it is not a competition between the students,” Harley Kyger, assistant powertrain lead and Industrial Technology and Vehicle Design senior from Woodinville, said. “Everyone is really rooting for each other. You’re definitely working together with the teams around you.”
Western’s team helped out other Formula teams by providing spare parts and working with them on last-minute engineering issues.
“When you get to the end of the competition and see those other teams be just as successful as you were, that’s one of the best feelings,” Kyger said.
The most strenuous part of the competition is the endurance event and this year, WWU placed 9th out of more than 50 teams, a huge accomplishment.
“I think about 75 percent of the teams make it to endurance, but then about half the teams that compete in the endurance race don’t complete it,” Kyger said.
This year 53 teams signed up for the endurance event, but only 22 teams finished. The endurance event is 16 laps around the track, adding up to 22 km (13.7 miles). The faster the team can finish the course, the higher their score is. Many end up not finishing the event because of mechanical failures.
Austin Mellinger, ergonomics lead for the team and a senior majoring in Manufacturing and Engineering from Renton, said driving in the competition was very stressful.
“There is that pressure that you are in this thing that everyone else built and you don’t want to mess up or hit any cones, because you get penalties for that,” he said.
Before any team can compete, its vehicle has to pass initial inspections to make sure it is legal and safe. Western’s team was the first team to make it through inspection. It took an hour. The car is inspected, tilted to make sure fluids don’t leak and tested to make sure it is not too loud.
“It was as easy as turning on the car and rolling it up to a guy with a little device in his hand. But I had the biggest grin on my face,” Kyger said.
But like any race car with an exposed engine, the sound is intense.
“It’s extremely loud,” Mellinger said. “The first time getting in the car was like sensory overload.”
WWU Racing designs and builds a formula racing car from scratch almost every year, purchasing some parts and fabricating others. To get the car to competition, the team of 27 students loaded their creation into a trailer and drove four vans and a truck nearly 2,000 miles across the country. The team didn’t stop to sleep, they rotated drivers and slept in the cars.
“It took us about 36 hours there and 40 hours to get back,” Sara Hoiness, the team’s business director and a senior Accounting major from Hoquiam, said. “We had a sleeper section in each van and the truck.”
The team is not exclusive to engineering students. It is open to all majors, but requires a significant commitment. Members of WWU Racing have to attend team meetings, put work into the car and are often working late into the night. They have to balance school work, personal lives, the club, and in some cases a job.
“We are all volunteers, none of us get paid to do this,” Kyger said.
Before the competition, Hoiness thought the competition was just for engineers.
“I was definitely wrong,” she said. “They were saying that especially in the engineering industry, for a business major to be a part of formula team and have that on their resume, your resume will go to the top of the stack.”
WWU Racing has completed over 50 cars since it was founded. The team has already started working on the newest one, Viking 61.
“Planning really starts the night after awards ceremony,” Hoiness said.
For more information about WWU Racing or Formula SAE, contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.