The Ohio State University Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) team placed third out of 114 teams in the 42nd annual Formula SAE competition hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE) held at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan on May 17-20, 2023.
The Formula SAE competitions challenge teams of university undergraduate and graduate students to conceive, design, fabricate, develop and compete with small, formula style vehicles, according to the Formula SAE website. The competition is an engineering education competition that requires performance demonstration of vehicles in a series of events, both off track and on track against the clock. Each competition gives teams the chance to demonstrate their creativity and engineering skills in comparison to teams from other universities around the world.
“It’s a true testament to the hard work everyone has put in over the years to make this team what it is today,” Colin Mullan, the lead driver for the formula team’s competition vehicle and incoming team president, said. “We owe a lot to some of our amazing alumni and supporters for giving us a solid foundation coming out of the COVID years that hampered our ability to get rolling again. Our members have committed hundreds - if not thousands - of hours to get us to this place. Our goal has been to continuously improve and keep pushing this team forward, which I’m proud to say we have accomplished. “
The competition consisted of eight different events. Three are “static” events where the team is scored based on their knowledge and presentation skills, and the remaining five are “dynamic” events where they compete on track with their car.
The formula car speeding by
Static events are made up of cost, presentation, and design. Cost is a measure of how affordable the car is relative to other teams and how accurately the team has priced out their components. Presentation is a somewhat open prompt that the team has to present as a viable business opportunity.
Dynamic events include acceleration, skidpad, autocross, endurance, and efficiency. Acceleration is basically a drag strip where the car’s straight-line performance is measured against time. Skidpad is a simple two-circle setup where the car is scored on lap time - with the goal of measuring the car’s steady-state performance. Autocross acts primarily as a “qualifying” session for the endurance event, a driver gets two laps around a track to set their fastest lap time. Endurance is the highest-point total event, where the car runs for around 25 minutes straight between two drivers and the team is scored based on the total time to complete a set number of laps.
“We spend the entire school year working towards this event. We start with a design phase over the summer and into the fall, with most of the manufacturing occurring from late fall through the winter. We’re nearly entirely made up of undergrad students, with a few grad students sticking around for certain projects. This year, we had a pretty aggressive testing schedule,” Mullan said. “Our consistency across all events this year was certainly a testament to the extra prep time and hard work from all of our team members to make it happen. We were inside the top 10 in each dynamic event, but never “dominated” anything. We kept it mistake-free and executed about as well as we could, which certainly helped our final placement finishing 3rd overall.”
Each event was evaluated and graded by a team of judges then combined to get a final score for each team. The team placed higher than several notable schools, including the Purdue, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, University of Texas - Arlington, Kansas State, University of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Texas A&M among many others.
“It’s great to see such a huge pool of teams competing each year, and just adds to the extra level of competitive spirit within the event. There’s obviously a bit of college rivalry between certain schools - especially for us in the Big 10!” Mullan said. “The rules allow for quite a bit of design interpretation, so it’s always interesting to see what different teams come up with. We have a great relationship with a few other schools competing, so it's always nice to see what they come up with and support our friends and fellow Ohio-based teams in the paddock.”
The teams biggest challenge is that there are nearly a dozen different sub-teams that each have their own sets of obstacles
“The real challenge is piecing everything together in a holistic way and helping those who need it at various times,” Mullan said. “Everyone has to meet their individual goals for us to be successful, and we have done a great job of cultivating talented and hardworking people in our leadership positions to make that happen. From there, it’s the sub-team integration, where we put all the pieces together. We hit every stage of the engineering design process, from initial problem identification, to design, manufacturing, and testing. Each phase has its own series of hurdles that we work hard to overcome as a team!”
This year’s Formula SAE team was sponsored by Mercedes Benz of Easton, Keysight, MK1 Composites, Honda, and TRC. Other large sponsors include Westinghouse, Triple F Collection, Ineos, GE Aerospace, Huntsman, Westlake, Reese, Sterling, and Totalsim.
“We have many very valuable sponsors who contribute anything from services to money,” Danny McCray, the team’s business director, said. “There are countless others that support us in various ways, our website - www.FormulaBuckeyes.org has the full list available there! We are very grateful for all their support. It truly takes contributions from everyone here to make our competition happen.”
The primary advisor for the formula team is Jeff Chrstos, a Research Scientist and director of the Driving Dynamics Lab at the Center of Automotive Research.
“We wanted to give a final thank you to the Center for Automotive Research and College of Engineering here at Ohio State for the continued support!” Mullan said. “We are lucky to have a great University behind us that enables our team to thrive in the first place.”
Over the next few years, the formula team will begin the transition from competing in the Internal Combustion category to the Electric Vehicle category.