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Mizzou and Russian engineering students exchange automotive racing knowledge

MU students observe the construction process of STPSPU's formula car.

As part of their trip to Russia, MU’s SAE Formula Car Team and Eco Racing Team toured the Dikom factory alongside Fab Lab Polytech director Igor Asonov (blue jacket) in St. Petersburg, Russia, and got a look at the pieces St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University’s Formula Car Team planned to use to assemble their own car. Photos courtesy of Marty Walker.

Engineering is a universal language, and during Mizzou’s spring break, some MU College of Engineering students talked engineering with Russian students as nine members from MU’s SAE Formula Car and Mizzou Eco-Racing teams traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, to swap stories and expertise with students from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University (SPBSTU).

Accompanied by Vlad Likholetov, MU Engineering’s director of international partnerships, and Marty Walker, SAE Formula Car team adviser, the MU students assisted SPBSTU’s newly formed SAE Formula Car and Smartmoto Challenge Team to ready their teams for competition in Hungry next year.

MU's Marcus Friedrich, center, and Rory Hourihan, right, make a presentation to a group including St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University team adviser Evgenii Zakhlebaev.

MU’s Marcus Friedrich, center, and Rory Hourihan, right, make a presentation to a group including St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University team adviser Evgenii Zakhlebaev.

MU’s SAE Formula Car Team competes in quarter-scale formula car events, and Mizzou Eco-Racing competes in hydrogen/alternative energy events. Both teams compete within the U.S. collegiate racing circuit.

Likholetov and Walker conceived the idea of bringing the two countries’ engineering students together over the popular common subject of racing. Their proposal was based on the concept of a two-way exchange of ideas and site visits.

Their proposal was one of over 300 submitted to the U. S. State Department last year and was approved in October. Prior to traveling to Russia, teams communicated ideas and thoughts through email and Skype.

After a day of presentations, the MU SAE Formula Car and Eco Racing teams posed with team members from St. Petersburg Polytechnic State University.

After a day of presentations, the MU SAE Formula Car and Eco Racing teams posed for a photo with team members from St. Petersburg Polytechnic State University.

During Mizzou engineers’ seven-day trip — including more than twenty-eight hours of travel before arriving in Russia — technical aspects of each competition and car assembly were discussed.

Students from both universities found they had common ground: both use 3D printing of equipment, team sponsorships, some of the same competition tactics and both have high retention of team members.

Included in the exchange were a SPBSTU campus tour and a factory tour of Dikom, a premier sponsor of the St. Petersburg team. The group also visited historic sites in St. Petersburg.

Both Mizzou teams made presentations on their applicable teams and fielded questions regarding their competitions. A member of the U.S. State Department was in attendance and stated that the student presentations were very professional and represented the U.S. well.

In April, the St. Petersburg Polytech Smartmoto Challenge team will visit MU and join MU’s Eco-Racing team at Shell Eco-Marathon race held in Detroit. Then in May, the Polytech SAE Formula Car team will visit Mizzou and then travel with the MU SAE team to Michigan for the SAE Formula Car competition at Michigan’s International Speedway from May 13 to 16. More than 130 SAE teams from around the world will be competing in what is North America’s premier collegiate racing event.

The trip was the first overseas travel by some of the Mizzou team members and according to Lauren Wertz, president of the SAE Formula Car Team, one that will never be forgotten.

Regardless of geographical location, this trip emphasized to students at both schools that engineers everywhere think alike.