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Bellingham
Monday, May 10, 2021

Finding the right formula

Formula cars built and designed by students are lined up on an empty airstrip while judges inspect them, searching for design flaws.

WWU Racing is a Formula One team that participates in an international competition once a year against other collegiate teams. Formula-style cars are one-seat race cars with the engine located behind the driver.

“We’re composed of engineering and business students,” junior Logan Slack, WWU Racing team project manager, said.

“The reason I devote a lot of my life to this  is how you get a great job. We’ve had six people in the past few years get jobs at SpaceX, some people at Tesla.”

Phil Schwartz, junior and chassis lead

There are 30 students on the team, and Slack said a lot of their time is spent on manufacturing the car.

The team uses a 3-D printer to help put the car together. Slack said without 3-D printers, making parts for the car would require a lot of materials and time.

“We used to have to make [parts] by hand or with machines and it would be a couple weeks,” Slack said.

Senior Hunter Stone is the technical director of the team and test drives the team formula car, Viking 58.

“When you design a car you want to start from the outside in. So you start with the wheels, to the brakes, to the suspension, to the chassis [frame],” Stone said.

Junior Phil Schwartz is the chassis lead, and is responsible for the body of Viking 58. Schwartz said Formula Society of Automotive Engineers have set rules on what the specifications are on a car.

The Society of Automotive Engineers is an organization that hosts worldwide competitions.

WWU Racing’s Formula One car. // Photo courtesy of Logan Slack

The competition is more than just going up against other teams, Schwartz said. The Society of Automotive Engineers provides students with an engineering experience through building race cars.

“What they’re [Society of Automotive Engineers] trying to instill in students is the correct processes for engineering and how you go through that process,” Schwartz said.

During competition, the cars go through multiple events called “dynamic events,” which test acceleration, suspension, overall speed and endurance of the car.

The competition is scored out of 1000 points, and each event is worth a different amount.

“These are autocross-type events, so they’re on parking lots or airstrips with cones and there are lots of quick, tight turns,” Slack said.

Along with dynamic events, teams are required to present their car designs to judges.

Slack described this stage of the competition as a series of tests that focus on statistical facts about their cars. Teams have to cost out their cars, which involves calculating how much they spent, what materials were used and how long it took to build their car.

Design is the final part of competition, in which engineers explain their design choices.

“It’s a grueling process done by former engineers of the competition that are now in industry and they [judges] know what they’re talking about, you can’t slip things by them,” Slack said.

Slack said the team is valuable to students because it teaches and educates the future of transportation engineers.

“I know so many students that end up at a lot of major [original equipment manufacturers], they end up in aerospace, they end up in the trucking industries because they need people that can design efficient engines,” Slack said.

Freshman Rory Reshovska is lead electronics, and said students can also earn internships during college based off the work they’ve done.

“The reason I devote a lot of my life to this  is how you get a great job. We’ve had six people in the past few years get jobs at SpaceX, some people at Tesla,” Schwartz said.

Reshovska said there’s a big difference between classroom learning and hands-on learning.

“The amount of practice you get on this team goes so far beyond what you’ll ever do in a lab for a class, it’s really no comparison,” Reshovska said.

Viking 58 is at the testing phase, and Stone is one of four test drivers.

“Our motto is to drive the crap out of it. The more you stress things, the more you find out the reliability,” Stone said.

WWU Racing team has meetings open to all students at 5 p.m. Mondays in the Ross Engineering Technology, room 155.

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