Year round, USF works toward competitions

Anyone whos walked to or passed by the Parking andTransportation Servicesbuilding has probably seen it.

The white school bus with green and yellow stripes and text that says USFRacing is parked to the left ofparking services, and serves agreater purpose than just a cool decoration.

That bus is how the USFracing team travels to itscompetitions once May comes around to start off the season. The Buss inside resembles that of an RV after club memberssalvaged old RV parts and rebuilt the inside of the bus.

For four long days at a timeduring competition season, the members will start the day as early as 6 a.m. in variouslocations 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 theres much to be done before that.

Once competition seasonbegins, USF must have a completely new race car from the previous season.

So, for the nine monthsleading up to the start ofracing season theengineers meet in the garagedirectly on the other side of thedecked-out bus in a shop full ofstudents with one goal.

That goal is to simply put together a car that can place high and is fit to race.

But its 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 youre trulypassionate about it, its areally good way to get a job inthe field, Mateusz Malinowski, a senior in mechanicalengineering, said.

Even during their spring breaks and summer vacations, some of these engineers will spend their breaks working the 10 a.m. to1 a.m. shift in the shop.

You modify and fix yourprevious design toimprove it, Same Steele, a senior in mechanicalengineering, said. Thats what its all about, improving on what youve done in years past.

The shop and all the work that goes on in it is the source forlessons in time management and even on how to work on less sleep if need be.

It turns into alifestyle change, Steele said. This turns intosomething that becomes one of the main focuses of your life.

Or the main focus, JoeElder, a senior in mechanical engineering, said.

The constant work seems to pay off.

Last year in June ata competition inLincoln, Neb., USF placed ninth overall among the80 cars that competed.

But unlike theDaytona 500 or otherNASCAR events, the races are nothead-to-head, and with a car that can go from 0 to 60mph as the USF car does, thats
probably a safe way to run thecompetitions 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 cars speed, acceleration and durability.

Once the season starts, the dream is brought to reality, Steele said.

You put all the time andeffort into it and youreally dont know what it boils down to, theneverything comes together, he said.

In a competition season that typically includes threecontests; each one is comprised ofdifferent events for the cars toparticipate in.

The schools that attend are allowed up to four drivers percompetition, two per event.

During competitionseason, SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) sponsors thecontests that USF races infor the majority of theseason, while racing inFormula North every sooften.

With few cars taking the course at once and cones being placed on the course, safety is taken care of and the likeliness of aDaytona-type crash is highlyunlikely.

The way our competition is set up were in a big open course, Elder said. The most you do is hit a cone.

More importantlythese mechanical engineeringmajors, that take up themajority of USFracing, get firsthand experience in their craft,making the club the applied portion of their studies.

The way I do it, I seesomething in class and I think about how to apply it to theracecar, Elder said.

While engineers make up the majority of the club, that doesnt mean the shop is the home for just mechanicalengineers.

With social media outlets increasing in importance and the need of funding for USFracing, business majors tomass communicationsmajors are beingwelcomed to the club in hopes of one day being able to traveloverseas for competition.

After the team steps off its bus, as summerbegins, they will return to the shop, back to the grind again,because as Steele said, It never ends.