Red and Blue Racing Gears Up for 2011-12 Season
The 2010-11 racing season, culminating in racing events held from May 11-14 at the Michigan International Speedway, showcased one of Penn Red and Blue Racing's highest placements to date. Red and Blue Racing is a student team that participates in FSAE, a student competition organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers, known commonly as SAE International. Each year, hundreds of teams participate in events held all around the globe, and Penn's team is poised to push for an even more successful showing during the 2011-12 season.
To compete, students design and develop small "Formula" style racers (cars with an open-wheeled, single-seat design) which are then evaluated in several events, leading to scores in categories such as overall design, cost and endurance. Red and Blue Racing placed fifth in cost (out of 122 teams in 2011), making its car, known as "RB7," one of the most cost-effective developed for the competition. The competition is designed by SAE International to simulate a real-world assignment in the automotive industry, and entries are evaluated according to production standards by professionals from around the world.
Penn's FSAE team is guided by team leader Karan Desai, an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM) and faculty advisor Robert Jeffcoat, adjunct professor in MEAM. Team members spend upwards of 10 hours a week working on the car, and team leaders and other senior members usually spend over 30 hours a week in addition to being full-time students.
Plans for this season include improving on the current design of the RB7 car. The team is developing the present car on a two-year cycle and will compete in the 2012 FSAE race event in Ontario, Canada and will return to Michigan in 2013. "There is still a good deal of untapped potential in this platform, and we intend to iterate on the current car in order to further the team's knowledge and skills," says Desai. "We intend to redesign our front suspension to improve overall front end grip, and will work to increase the reliability of our advanced electronics systems."
Even though the team has known success each year with veteran members, it relies on each new freshman class to renew the team and build on its tradition of achievement. "We plan to recruit heavily," notes Desai. "Team members get to work on every facet found in a real-world engineering company such as management, development, and marketing as the car's performance, cost effectiveness and marketability are judged at the competition."
Although FSAE is fundamentally an engineering project, the team seeks students who are passionate and proud of their work, regardless of their major or their past experiences. Because of the formula-style design, cars occupy a very small footprint (about 5 feet long and 3.5 feet wide), making them very light and much more efficient than other types of cars. As a result, team members become experts at packaging the car's fundamental systems into compact areas, while still making sure that there is enough room to install, tune, and work with the various components on the car.
Sponsors and Support
The efforts of Red and Blue Racing are supported not only by Penn Engineering's facilities, faculty and staff. Volunteers make the Formula SAE competition possible, and many of them are present or retired industry professionals, who dedicate their time to inspecting and judging FSAE cars. "Their dedication to the education of young engineers is crucial to the future of the automotive industry, and their advice is a driving force behind many design improvements in future cars," says Desai. "We would like to thank our corporate sponsors and suppliers for their financial and technical support. Finally, we would like to thank the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics department for their unwavering support throughout the years, and for extensive access to the Towne machine shop, without which our success would not be possible."