The University of New Mexico Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) LOBOmotorsports team took top 10 honors — including a first-place finish — in the finals of the virtual FSAE Knowledge Event held earlier this month.
UNM’s electric vehicle (EV) car finished No. 1 in the presentation category, No. 7 in design and No. 7 overall. There were 51 teams that competed from around the world in the EV contest. UNM placed higher than the top 10 engineering schools in the country, with exception of Stanford University, which did not compete.
Meanwhile, the internal combustion (IC) car finished No. 4 in presentation and 20th in design. They placed 36th overall out of 132 teams around the world, placing higher than Arizona State, Duke University, Brown University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
For the No. 1 slot, UNM beat out top-ranked programs such as University of California – Riverside and the University of Pennsylvania.
In addition, UNM’s EV car was awarded the 3-View Drawing Excellence Award, one of only three EV teams to receive the honor.
John Russell, director of the LOBOmotorsports program, said this year was challenging due to the virtual format and competing in the EV contest for the first time, but it makes the success all the more worthy of celebration.
“I am especially proud of our efforts on the EV car since it is our first,” he said. “There was a lot to learn. Electric cars are quite complex, and the safety aspects of dealing with high voltage are challenging.”
Presenters for both competitions (everyone on FSAE contributes to both vehicles and share similar technologies, then designated members present for each car at competition, per the Knowledge Event rules) were all seniors in mechanical engineering, including Eric Benfield, Anthony Lobato, Leticia Mercado and Donato Piroscafo.
Piroscafo, a systems engineer who presented for the EV car, said he gained a lot from being involved in the program, pointing out that the kinds of problems he had to tackle and the mentorship he received go far beyond what students can find in a classroom.
“UNM’s Formula SAE program is the best academic program I have ever been a part of,” he said. “Solving the problems requires creativity and critical thinking skills, as well as great communication and collaboration.”
He said in particular, he is coming away with strong skills in systems engineering design, project management, and knowledge about battery pack design and EV safety.
Piroscafo, who is interested in a position in mechanical engineering design related to sustainable energy and machine design, will be among the students to participate in the summer competitions as one of the electric systems officers for the electrical vehicle, as well as serving as an EV driver in the endurance and skidpad events.
Benfield was project manager and presented for the IC car. He said that FSAE is always a challenging project, but it is worth the work.
“You will not gain the knowledge and skills that you get in FSAE on any other project on campus,” he said. “You have to be able to work as a team in an environment that is similar to what you will see in the industry.”
He also will be participating in the summer contests.
Lobato, deputy project manager and head of manufacturing and marketing, presented for the EV car. He said the experience he gained on the team helped him secure a position at Pro-Fab Inc.
“This program has been an experience unlike anything else in my life. I’ve learned what it takes to be an engineer, to be part of an engineering team, and also how to be a better professional,” he said. “This program has provided the groundwork for me to build on in order to start my career as a mechanical engineer and has provided an opportunity for me to see firsthand how all the education and theory is applied to real-world projects.”
Both cars will compete in person this year for the validation events in Las Vegas June 16-20.
The FSAE program will gain a new space in fall 2021 with the opening of the Dana C. Wood FSAE Racing Lab, an 8,500-square-foot facility in the basement of the Farris Engineering Center. It will house both the IC and EV cars, with dedicated fabrication, design and collaboration spaces.