Year round, USF works toward competitions
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 00:03
Anyone who’s walked to or passed by the Parking and Transportation Services building has probably seen it.
The white school bus with green and yellow stripes and text that says “USF Racing” is parked to the left of parking services, and serves a greater purpose than just a cool decoration.
That bus is how the USF racing team travels to its competitions once May comes around to start off the season. The Bus’s inside resembles that of an RV after club members salvaged old RV parts and rebuilt the inside of the bus.
For four long days at a time during competition season, the members will start the day as early as 6 a.m. in various locations of the country, hoping to end the day placing in the Top 10.
But USF racing must wait until May to get the green light to hit the road and there’s much to be done before that.
Once competition season begins, USF must have a completely new race car from the previous season.
So, for the nine months leading up to the start of racing season the engineers meet in the garage directly on the other side of the decked-out bus in a shop full of students with one goal.
That goal is to simply put together a car that can place high and is fit to race.
But it’s not so simple.
Every month leading up to competition, the engineers are at work trying to build the best car they can with hopes of impressing the judges and possible employers at events, such as Honda or Ford, which sponsor the competitions.
“If you really enjoy this and if you’re truly passionate about it, it’s a really good way to get a job in the field,” Mateusz Malinowski, a senior in mechanical engineering, said.
Even during their spring breaks and summer vacations, some of these engineers will spend their breaks working the “10 a.m. to 1 a.m. shift” in the shop.
“You modify and fix your previous design to improve it,” Same Steele, a senior in mechanical engineering, said. “That’s what it’s all about, improving on what you’ve done in years past.”
The shop and all the work that goes on in it is the source for lessons in time management and even on how to work on less sleep if need be.
“It turns into a lifestyle change,” Steele said. “This turns into something that becomes one of the main focuses of your life.”
“Or the main focus,” Joe Elder, a senior in mechanical engineering, said.
The constant work seems to pay off.
Last year in June at a competition in Lincoln, Neb., USF placed ninth overall among the 80 cars that competed.
But unlike the Daytona 500 or other NASCAR events, the races are not head-to-head, and with a car that can go from 0 to 60mph as the USF car does, that’s
probably a safe way to run the competitions that feature as many as 80 cars.
Each competition is set up in a series of events that test the car on everything from the design and fuel efficiency to the car’s speed, acceleration and durability.
Once the season starts, the “dream” is brought to reality, Steele said.
“You put all the time and effort into it and you really don’t know what it boils down to, then everything comes together,” he said.
In a competition season that typically includes three contests; each one is comprised of different events for the cars to participate in.
The schools that attend are allowed up to four drivers per competition, two per event.
During competition season, SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) sponsors the contests that USF races in for the majority of the season, while racing in Formula North every so often.
With few cars taking the course at once and cones being placed on the course, safety is taken care of and the likeliness of a Daytona-type crash is highly unlikely.
“The way our competition is set up we’re in a big open course,” Elder said. “The most you do is hit a cone.”
More importantly these mechanical engineering majors, that take up the majority of USF racing, get firsthand experience in their craft, making the club the applied portion of their studies.
“The way I do it, I see something in class and I think about how to apply it to the racecar,” Elder said.
While engineers make up the majority of the club, that doesn’t mean the shop is the home for just mechanical engineers.