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Mizzou formula car team driving for success

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Mizzou formula car team driving for success

Mizzou Formula Car team member Ryan Sobotka takes a turn during the 2009 Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Michigan Competition's skid pad event, in which the team finished 18th out of 119 registered competitors. Photo by Justin Myers

MU’s formula-style car finished in the top 20 percent for maneuverability in this year’s premier international student competition, earning design kudos despite steering problems that eventually knocked the vehicle out of the contest.

The Mizzou Formula Car team placed 18th out of 119 registered teams in the skid pad event that measures a car’s ability to turn corners at the 2009 Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Michigan Competition, held May 13-16 in Brooklyn, Mich. Mizzou’s team came in 22nd in the autocross event, which assesses how a car generally handles.

“When it comes to handling, this car stuck to the road like a fly to flypaper,” said team member Ryan Sobotka, a mechanical and aerospace engineering sophomore who will act as the team’s chief production engineer next year.

MU’s push-pull bar, designed by mechanical and aerospace engineering sophomore Steven Reeves, placed first in a separate event at the SAE competition, said team member Maria Holt, a business management senior who served as business chair for the team.

Though the team also did well in the presentation and acceleration contest categories, MU placed 49th in the overall competition after dropping out of the endurance trial with a broken steering shaft. Team members point to the steering shaft as one of several areas MU plans to modify during an upcoming redesign of the car guided by this year’s competition experience.

“Everyone on the team now knows what’s going on, and what needs to be fixed,” said Trevor Stoll, a mechanical and aerospace engineering junior who will serve as the team’s chief design engineer next year.

Mizzou’s formula car team members will increase the steering shaft’s thickness in next year’s vehicle, as well as change the joint that holds the shaft to the steering column, Stoll said. The team also will modify the car’s cockpit design to conform to new competition rules, correcting the noncompliance that hurt MU’s score this year, he said.

The team will emphasize engineering the car as a package, rather than focusing on separate components, Sobotka said. Ultimately, team members plan to build a car that weighs in at about 430 pounds, lighter than the 470-pound car they raced this year, he said.

In order to provide a couple additional months to complete the overhaul, team members said they plan to compete only in the Formula SAE California contest that the SAE International sponsors each summer. MU’s formula car team competed in both the Formula SAE Virginia contest last April and the Formula SAE Michigan event, which meant the car needed to be largely complete by February, Holt said.

“It will give us more time to get the car built and tuned the way we want it to be for competition,” Holt said.

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