For auto enthusiasts at Concordia, summer means car competitions.
The undergraduate branch of the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers)
is an interest group of about 20 or so students who test their skill and
ingenuity in competitions, often against much better financed university
teams in the United States.
One subdivision of the Concordia SAE, called Formula, concentrates on
the design and manufacture of a scaled-down Formula One- style race car.
The challenge for this group of 15 students is to develop a racecar that
can feasibly be mass-produced for the average weekend racer. At the competitions,
held in the Detroit area, the car is judged on design, aesthetics, performance
In 2000, the team had an awful time We were still working
on the race car in the cube van while we were travelling to Detroit,
said team member Taro Dicks but it was a learning experience that
focused their ideas for the 2001-02 car.
Their hard work paid off this year. Most of the other teams stuck to the
traditional downscaled Formula design. Instead, the Concordia team upscaled
a go-cart with automatic transmission to better conform to the requirements
of the track, which includes many tight turns and short straightaways.
As a result, it was under-powered but had excellent handling capability
and a suspension design that caught the attention of many officials and
The young designers used a 500-cc 1-cylinder Polaris ATV engine, smaller
than the 610-cc 4-cylinder engine used by most teams. We used the
small engine to save weight and improve handling and fuel economy,
The only drawback was that the regulation air-intake restriction
caused the mono-cylinder more choking problems than it would have had
with more cylinders.
Polaris representatives at the competition were excited to see the Concordia
team using their products, and promised a free 610-cc 2-cylinder engine
for the following year as well as technical help on the tuning of the
CVT (continuously variable transmission). The team was thrilled to see
the coverage they got in the international magazine Racecar Engineering,
which published a feature on the SAE competition in Detroit.
Its expensive work. The team got $36,000 from the Engineering and
Computer Science Students Association (ECA), for which they are very grateful.
The Formula team received $8,000, a fair share, Dicks allowed, but the
students were on such a slender shoestring that they crammed the whole
team all 14 into one Detroit hotel room!
Dicks has tinkered with machines for years, starting with his bicycle,
then his car, then his parents cars. He says he has four cars in
his yard at the moment.
Although belonging to the SAE is voluntary, Dicks says that its
great work experience and looks good on your résumé. In
past years, he said, members of successful teams have been hired by industry
Dicks said he especially valued the experience of working with machinists,
and he gives credit to the three employees of the Department of Mechanical
Engineerings Machine Shop, under the supervision of Brian Cooper.
Although he graduated in the spring, Dicks is sticking with the SAE team
for another year. His current project is the redesign of the chassis.