Archive for Sunday, April 23, 2006

Building high-octane car tests engineering students’ abilities

KU group hopes to improve on last year’s 12th-place finish

April 23, 2006


It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. It costs more than $100,000 to build. And it's primarily handmade.

"This is definitely not a go-cart," Kansas University's Jayhawk Motorsports team captain Logan Johnson said.

The team's formula-style racing car, designed and built by the eight-member team, nears completion as the team prepares for the national Formula SAE competition near Detroit next month.

The contest, organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers, will pit KU's team against more than 100 other schools. And this year's team hopes to improve on last year's 12th-place finish.

"I certainly would expect a top 10 this year," said Robert Sorem, the team's faculty adviser.

Those on the team say it's the best student project on campus - a chance for senior engineering students to put what they've learned into action in the largest project they'll do at KU. Eight students make up this year's design team, and many others volunteer.

"It's definitely more difficult than you think to build a car," team member Kyle Martens said.

The team follows a list of hundreds of rules for building the car. Over the course of the school year, often logging 40-100 hours per week of work, the students craft the car powered with a 600 cc. motorcycle engine.

They mold and bake the carbon fiber chassis. They use computer-controlled machines to create the rear subframe. The engine is purchased and modified. About 70 percent of the car's parts are made by hand.

The car, which has 1 inch of ground clearance, can zoom faster than 100 mph, though the students have never taken it to top speeds, Johnson said. They might drive it faster than 70 mph.

"It has an extremely quick response for turning," Johnson said. "It's crazy how fast these things can go."

At competition, Cornell University's team often takes the top prize. And then some schools have pretty sorry cars.

"The playing field isn't really level, but most people do it because they enjoy it," team member Garrett Witthar said.

KU has climbed up the ranks over the years, and last year's finish was the highest ever for KU. But winning isn't everything.

The project is a great resume booster and learning experience, the team members said.

"You take the stuff you learn in engineering school and you get to see how it works in real life," Martens said. "We get to drive something that's really fun and fast."


Sigmund 12 years, 1 month ago

Nice! I hope we get to see some video of it on the track. For anyone interested you should check out the video below. How about a car that has 600bhp/ton, 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. It's so fast it can destroy your face, it's faster than a Porshe Carrera GT, at 1/20th the price.

If the link moves, just search for "top gear atom" on google's video site.

Lonestar1 12 years, 1 month ago

The student members of SAE at K-State are building a car as well, only they are doing it on a $15,000 budget that is made up of donations and fund rasers. The object here is to learn, not just win. I am glad KU has $100,000 to play with, I hope they learn something as well.

Rhoen 12 years, 1 month ago

Why not try to project 10 or 15 years into the future, when natural petroleum is all but exhausted? How about use of alterntive fuels? On what will engines run at that time? We have all but exhausted the known supply of fossil fuels.

compmd 12 years, 1 month ago

SAE should start a diesel racing league. Anyone remember the Mercedes C-111 turbodiesel? Students could come up with something like that. Check out the C-111, Rhoen, it would satisfy the alternative fuel idea.

Sigmund 12 years, 1 month ago

We are not "running out of oil". That completely misstates the problem. We may be coming to a point where oil becomes so expensive to extract that other alternative sources of energy (solar, wind, hydro) become more economical. We may be "running out of cheap oil", which is completely different.

Further, statements like "all but exhausted" assumes you know how much petroleum exists, which you don't. Historically, only some 30 percent of the total oil in a reservoir -- the "original oil-in-place" -- was recoverable. That means that 70% of the known oil is still in place

You want more petroleum? Easy. Let any oil company that finds new sources or recover that know 70% operate tax free. You'll be awash in petroleum.

Misstate the nature of the problem and you'll rarely come to the solution to the problem.

conservativelibertarian 12 years, 1 month ago

nice post sigmund. i couldnt have said it better myself

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 1 month ago

If you can't afford to recover it, you can't use it. If you can't use it, for all practical purposes, it doesn't exist.

jhawkmotorsport 12 years, 1 month ago

Hey guys, I'm a member of the KU Formula team. I just wanted to respond to some of your comments. Some of the facts in the story were a little misleading. First off, we don't run a 100K budget, that number is what it would cost the average joe. We cost all of the time each member puts in and machining time (which we get free courtesy KU's machine shop) and materials like Carbon Fiber which we get donated. There are many more factors that go into the 100K number just too many to put here. Our actual monetary budget is more like 25-30K. Not to slam on KState's FSAE team (too hard =]), but they may use a 10-15K/year budget but they also build one car every two years generally.

Now on to the fuel concerns. The Society of Automotive Engineers has many student competitions. ¢ Aero Design® ¢ Clean Snowmobile ¢ Formula SAE® ¢ Mini Baja® ¢ Supermileage® These competitions are primarily here to teach us young engineers, and anyone else, how to design for a number of very important goals. There are a list of rules for the FSAE competition available on SAE's website Also we have an economy event in our 22km endurance event, basically we are scored on how much fuel we use. I encourage anyone who wants to volunteer for the formula team to email the team leader Logan Johnson [ knightdt at mail dot ku dot edu ]

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