Mechanical Engineering Professor Cliff Stover is standing outside a motel in eastern Colorado talking on his cell phone. He’s hot — it’s a searing 105 outside — and says he’s worn out from driving all the way from Lincoln, Nebraska, the day before, but he doesn’t sound tired at all.
A rush of enthusiasm floods his voice as he recounts how the student racing and engineering team he advises just had their best performance in over 15 years, beating out nearly 70 teams in the Formula SAE international design competition to finish in third place.
“With the teams we were up against, it was pretty darn good,” says Stover, who is also director of the engineering projects lab at Cal Poly Pomona. “We do better than them because we’re better engineers than them.” And that’s working with a much smaller budget than they have, he adds.
In preparation for the competition, the team spent months and countless hours in the lab designing a car similar to those used in Formula 1 racing, machining parts, welding a frame, testing aerodynamics and wiring a computer system to run the engine.
Ultimately, the team and the car are judged on design, quality of the engineering, performance on the track and how well the team presented its design to a panel of judges.
Out of the dozens of teams that participated, which included entrants from UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC and several other CSUs, only Auburn University and the University of Washington scored higher than the Cal Poly Pomona team.
Stover says the team did well in the racing portion, gained points for innovative features in the car and earned high marks for professional presentation.
“We have an electronic throttle, which no one has ever used before,” he says. “Our aerodynamic package was perfectly designed and presented, and our students presented themselves completely professionally and the judges loved it.”
In August, the team will again head to Hockenheim, Germany, for the Formula Student Germany International Design Competition. Last year’s team beat all other teams from the U.S., coming in 16th overall.