The University of Missouri has a group of students who are competing in the world of auto racing.
A major auto manufacturer sponsors teams from colleges around the country to compete in an open-wheel series known as Formula SAE, which stands for Society of Automotive Engineers.
The students spend countless hours tweaking their proto-type cars to achieve the maximum aerodynamic efficiency.
Steve Wegryn with Ford Motor Company, which provides use of its wind tunnel for testing, says the MIZZOU team is one of the most dedicated in the series. “They were here in the spring, and I said ‘So, are you taking the summer off and enjoy yourself?’ They said ‘No’. They work on this project year round. The team works on their vehicle design and verification year round. And they continue to tweak the vehicle.”
The wind tunnel is down the road from Ford’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Wegryn notes the MU team is relentlessly focused, making regular trips to the facility. He says “The students from Missouri have probably been our most consistent team that has come back here to the wind tunnel and tested.”
The students start from scratch, designing the cars before they tune and test them. Wegryn says they work together, but divide responsibility into separate areas of expertise. “There are a group of students which have a particular area that they focus on the vehicle. Some may be the chassis. Some might be the powertrain. Some might be the electronics. Obviously, some are the aerodynamics.”
They also drive the vehicles, reaching 80 miles-per-hour on extremely tight, windy tracks which feature hairpin turns.
Major colleges joining Mizzou students on the circuit are teams from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and the Massachusetts institute of Technology. Ford sponsors the racing series as a way to promote automotive engineering.