Mississippi State automotive engineers had many opportunities to race this past summer, from the 2010 Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Collegiate Design Series Competition to being filmed competing against a rival Southeast school for the Extreme College Rivals series for Fox Sports. The MSU Bulldogs and their car were put to the test.
The first race for the finish included the 2010 FSAE Collegiate Design Series Competition that pitted the Bulldogs against 121 teams from peer institutions to pull ahead of last year’s results.
The 20-member team raced its custom-built, formula one-style race car at the international FSAE competition and, despite some challenging events, bested 66 other teams.
“You have to build a car that is lightweight, reliable, quick, agile, comfortable, and cheap,” said Dash Robinson, the team’s suspension leader and junior mechanical engineering major. “The objective is to create the prototype and determine what it would cost to build and sell 3,000 cars a year.”
Ryan Poe, a three-year team veteran, added, “Getting the car done early is really important. What really separates us from other teams that had large problems at the race had to do with getting our car done early enough to test and work out any kinks while we were in the shop, rather than at the competition.”
“There are a couple of things we would definitely change for next year that will really help us place even higher than this year,” said Robinson. “There is a hose going to our air-shifter system, which caused some difficulties during the endurance event that we could easily re-route and also the steering needs some attention.”
Poe, a senior mechanical engineering major, explained that the steering was heavy and physically hard for the driver to turn the steering wheel. He added that there is no power steering in this car and that their steering wheel was only 10 inches in diameter.
“If you use too much leverage, then the car won’t turn sharp enough,” Robinson said. “I’ve ordered a different steering rack at a different ratio that should allow the driver better handling in our new car for next year’s race.”
“This experience is really rewarding because we literally build a car out of nothing–-just raw materials—and then we race it,“ Poe said. “Also, all the things we learn along the way we will be able to use in the field once we graduate.”
Another great experience this year beyond the FSASE competition, the team had the opportunity to race at the Atlanta Dragway, while participating in the Extreme College Rivals series that will air on Fox College Sports later this fall. The MSU team loaded up their car and headed to Atlanta to compete against Clemson during a large National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) event weekend this past June.
“Our event was actually happening while the qualifying was going on for the NHRA Unleashed event on Sunday. Ours was on Saturday,” Poe said.
“It was really fun. Clemson came up and we got to talk with them and see their car prior to the race,” Robinson said.
Poe also shared that the cars were both matched very evenly, both running at about 82-83 mph and within a car length of each other all the time.
They ran two drag races against Clemson and the one item that was different about these races was the tree. It was different than anything anyone on the team had ever raced with before.
“They call it a tree or a Christmas tree, and that is the light system to signal the cars to start,” Robinson said.
“I’ve done some drag racing before, but with set-ups that would go yellow light, yellow light, yellow light—all about a half second apart—before the green light,” Poe said. “The races in Atlanta had the tree set up so that all three yellow lights would light up at the same time and then you have four tenths of a second before the green light goes.”
The MSU team had three test runs in order to get comfortable with this different tree set up, as did Clemson, and that allowed them to feel more confident going into the official competition against their rivals.
The team had fast and successful runs on the track, but all we can tell you now is that to find out the results you will have to tune in. The MSU vs. Clemson episode will air at a later date, so make sure to keep an eye on our BCoE Facebook and Twitter pages for the announcement of when to watch our students race on TV.
By Heather M. Rowe