2014 FSAE team
UNM 2014 FSAE team

The University of New Mexico’s LOBOMotorSports team placed 11th overall out of 80 international entries at the Formula SAE competition held in Lincoln, Neb. recently.

“The team did really well, and we had the second-highest placement ever at the event,” said John Russell, director of UNM’s Formula SAE program and Halliburton Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “Our goal is to score better than 7/10 of the available points in each of the competitions, and we met that goal.”

The official scores for the UNM team are as follows:

Overall, the UNM team scored 715.4 points out of 1,000.

Static competition
• Business presentation: 69.6 out of 75 points
• Engineering design: 90 out of 150 points
• Cost analysis: 62.5 out of 100 points (an improvement of 20 points from last year)

Dynamic competition
• Endurance: 226.8 out of 300 points
• Fuel efficiency: 77 out of 100 points
• Skid pad: 31.6 out of 50 points
• Autocross: 116.2 out of 150 points
• Acceleration: 41.9 out of 75 points

Russell said he is proud of the team and of the performance they have shown at competition. He said their consistent performance is the mark of a high-quality program — especially when measured against larger universities with large and well-supported FSAE teams.

“We scored 728 in 2013, finishing 12th, and 703 in 2012, finishing 10th,” he said. “These are world-class scores. These are competitive scores against the best teams and schools in the U.S.”

Russell points out that everything is scored based on the performance of the first-place team, so when the best team scores highly, it makes it that much more competitive for other teams.

The team encountered some adversity in some of the dynamic contests, namely acceleration, skid pad and autocross, but they were able to identify the issue and overcome it, rebounding to place well — 8th — in the endurance competition.

Russell said that knowing how to respond when things don’t go as planned is all part of the value of the program for students.

“They learn how to overcome adversity, how to plan and how to get the job done,” he said. “It’s real engineering, responding to feedback and having to do it within time limitations — just like in industry.”

Julia Walker, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, was deputy project manager for the program. She said she enjoyed being part of “one of the most professional teams at the competition.” She calls it “easily the best part of my college career.”

“There was also genuine sportsmanship between the teams,” she said. “The overall feeling of competitiveness was always there between teams and especially during a race, but other teams were wishing us luck all the time, either during a technical inspection or on the way to the racetrack. Seeing how much other teams cared really made this competition stand out.”

Russell says that no matter how well the team performs, there is always room for improvement. Although he says that major changes in the design of the car must be made gradually — “more evolutionary than revolutionary” — better ways of doing things are in the works.

The new team is well ahead in their design for next year in hopes of finishing earlier, and having more time to practice and test the design. They’d also like to put the car on a diet, hoping to shed about 75 pounds off of its approximately 490 pounds and increase engine power by about 10 hp.

To help meet these goals, the team is planning to leverage the expertise in the School of Engineering. They will be working with Mehran Tehrani, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, on optimizing the materials used for the car. Mechanical engineering Professor Peter Vorobieff will offer assistance in testing the aerodynamics of the car using flow visualization.

The LOBOMotorSports Formula SAE program at UNM started in 1997. It has evolved into three-semesters in which students take three courses worth 10 credit hours: Racecar Design and Dynamics, Racecar Build Lab and Racecar Test Lab. The culmination of the program is an opportunity to compete against the best schools in the world.