The Cal Poly Pomona Formula SAE team is racing its Formula 1-style race car this week against 115 teams from a dozen countries at the Michigan International Speedway.
The annual Formula SAE competition, held May 9 to 14, challenges student teams to develop and construct a single-seat race car with the best overall package of design, construction, performance and cost.
This year, the Cal Poly Pomona team redesigned the hub assembly and is using a new motor. Led by team president Darshan Bagivalu, a senior majoring in industrial engineering, the team is focusing on increasing the car’s reliability, reducing weight and lowering the car’s center of gravity to increase control.
Last year, the event was a roller coaster for the Bronco Motorsports team. Just before the meet, the car suffered major mechanical failure both in the front wheel hub upright assembly and the motor, causing the team to miss two major events. As the team was attempting to fix the car, students learned they had made the design finals for only the second time in the team’s history. In design finals, teams must be able to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the car’s systems.
Despite the challenges and lost points for missed events, the Bronco team took second in the design finals and finished among the top 30 teams overall.
SAE competitions consist of both and dynamic and static events. Dynamic events, which are worth 675 of the total 1,000 points, include skidpad (figure 8 course), autocross (sprint), acceleration and endurance (22 km). The static events, worth 325 points, consist of engineering design, cost and sustainability analysis, business presentation and the technical inspection.
For many, it’s the dynamic racing events that are the most exciting. This year’s drivers are Bagivalu, Tim Heiderer, David Martinez and Kevin Wong, all graduating seniors majoring in mechanical engineering.
“One thing that really inspired me to join this team is that technically speaking, we compete at the same level as the teams funded with hundreds of thousands of dollars and who have major sponsors,” said Emma Kalayjian, business team lead and a senior majoring in computer information systems. “And there are times when we outcompete them because we have that X factor, the grit.”
For Kalayjian, one highlight of her team experience was being able to assist the electrical team in designing the dashboard in the test car. “It was challenging at first because I had zero technical knowledge. What I love about this team is that ‘Go handle it’ is kind of the mantra.”
Bagivalu has participated in the team for three years, putting in a lot of long nights and “a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
“What I love about it is that you’re given a task and told to go complete that task. Sometimes you’re given a task where you have no skills yet to accomplish it but you get the opportunity to teach yourself,” he said. “A major goal this year was to make sure that the incoming team has the knowledge they need to move forward and be successful.”
Engineering Professor Scott Boskovich, who is the team’s new advisor, noted that the team has overcome technical challenges, as well as the transition of graduating students and a long-time advisor out of the program.
“On the technical side they have learned so much. They’ve also changed as a team. Now they have true grit and a passion for the team that drives their success.”