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Mizzou SAE team places 14th in national competition

Tanner Thiessen (left) and Corey Birkmann push Mizzou’s SAE Formula car, with driver Mike Ramer at the wheel, away from the race track. Jacob Brown walks alongside the car while Ryan Sobotka carries supplies back to the team’s trailer.

With Formula SAE competitions, rankings aren’t only determined by which team possesses the fastest car. For most teams, speed accounts for less than 10 percent of the total points awarded. These competitions take a much broader view of what it takes to win at the racetrack.

“You have two different sides to the competition: the static side — that’s more your engineering and industrial side of it — and the dynamic side, and that’s where you actually get the car and race it,” said Jacob Brown, who will return in the fall as a senior mechanical engineering student and Mizzou Formula SAE team president.

Members of the Mizzou SAE Formula Car team pose for a group photo at the Michigan International Speedway. The team placed 14th overall at the SAE Michigan competition, held in early May at the speedway.

Brown, team adviser Marty Walker and 16 other students from the University of Missouri College of Engineering’s Formula SAE team traveled to the Michigan International Speedway, in Brooklyn, Mich., May 9 to 12, to compete in this year’s Formula SAE Michigan competition. The team placed 14th overall among 121 schools from around the world.

Placements in Formula SAE competitions are based on points earned in eight categories. Three categories are “static events,” which include cost,  — how much the car would cost if automakers were to produce the car — design and presentation, which is the score for how the team presents all the facts, data and information on the car.

“Static events involve a business plan. For example, how much would it actually cost if we built this vehicle for the market?” said outgoing team president Ryan Sobotka. “Then there’s the design competition where we present all the engineering behind the car. It’s pretty comprehensive.”

Design is one of most significant of the static events, according to Walker. In this event, the team member who leads each aspect of design makes a presentation about it to an industry professional. The team member will explain and sometimes defend why the team chose to go that direction with the car.

“Design is a big deal,” Walker said. “The top 10 teams in the design category receive bonus points, and of those top 10 teams, only two were American teams.” Mizzou placed 11th in that category, he added.

The other five categories are “dynamic events,” which involve how the car actually performs. They are acceleration, which the team members liken to a drag race; skid pad, which tests the car’s suspension and cornering; autocross, which is “one lap as fast as you can,” Brown said; endurance, a 22-kilometer race that tests the car’s durability and the racers’ abilities to compete; and economy, which is the fuel efficiency.

“They put more weight on using less fuel than how fast you go in a straight line,” Sobotka said about how the points were dispersed among the five dynamic categories.

Walker said he was very proud of the way team members worked together at competition. “You really have to function well as a team to get through any last minute, emergency modifications,” he said. “Our team is very rich in acceptance of each other’s strengths.”

At the next competition in Lincoln, Neb., the slate is wiped clean, Walker said. This benefits the team because they can take what they learned from the Michigan competition and use it in Lincoln. Whatever modifications they need to make will be completed by then.

The Formula SAE Lincoln competition will be held June 20 to 23 at the Lincoln Airpark.



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