By AMBER AINSWORTH, Staff Reporter
The 2015 University of Michigan-Dearborn Formula SAE race car was revealed to students, staff, and supporters on Saturday, April 18.
Students designed and built the car based on a set of rules; that car will then be tested against the cars of other teams to evaluate its performance.
This year’s car is the product of 20 years of past designs. A brief presentation before the unveiling allowed the team that built the car to discuss the highlights of the vehicle, as well as what was done differently in comparison to last year’s car. Each year brings a new design, fueled by what worked and what did not work in the past.
According to team president Mary Bellino, what changes from year to year depends on what will make the greatest impact on the car’s performance. Since the team doesn’t have all the resources to make all the changes they would like, simulations are ran to determine what changes will be made. The carrying over of ideas from seniors down is usually also a huge factor in the car’s performance, said Bellino.
Some years UM-Deaborn’s vehicle has been able to place in the top 10 when raced against other teams, though results like that depend on how many team members are returners.
The car’s production is entirely funded through sponsors and donations. According to the team’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Julia Klee, this year’s car took about $12,000 to build. Klee is responsible for getting in touch with the sponsors that help make the car possible.
Besides money, the race car requires a large amount of time and dedication from the team members. Both current students and alumni contribute to the success of the vehicle. Steve Dietz graduated from UM-Dearborn in 2008, but still comes back to mentor the team. In comparison to past cars, Dietz believes that the car is a good step in the right direction in terms of technology.
Alessandro Pacifici, who has worked on the cars for three years, dedicated most of his free time to working on the car. He worked so much that he doesn’t even know how much time he put into this year’s vehicle.
“It’s like a full time job,” said Bellino, noting that often times, more than 40 hours a week can be spent working on the car. At the unveiling event, parents joked about how that morning was the first time they had seen their children in months.
It’s not that much of an overstatement; January started the car building process. Orders for parts were placed in January, in February the team started making parts, and in March the actual assembly of the vehicle began and continued up until the night before the unveiling. That night, nearly the entire time was at the Institute for Advanced Vehicle Systems (IAVS), working to perfect the car for the morning. Even after that, there are still adjustments that have to be made before it is ready to hit the track and compete.
Time management is everything, according to Bellino. Successful time management not only allows the team to test the car, but also allows those who will be driving it to get familiar with it before race day.
This year’s race will be held May 13-16 at Michigan International Speedway. UM-Dearborn’s car will be up against over 100 teams from various schools, including several teams outside of the country.