University of Waikato engineering students are getting more and more adept at building and racing Formula SAE cars.
A team of 10 students travelled to Melbourne to enter their vehicle in an international Formula SAE competition and came ninth out of 32 universities; importantly, they won the main event ‒ endurance.
Fourth-year student Nathan Senior worked on the suspension system of the car. “We were a small team compared to many of the other universities competing, so we were pretty pleased with our overall result, especially winning endurance.”
Endurance involved 18 laps of an autocross track with a driver swap in the middle. Other categories included acceleration, skidpan, and autocross.
“We were also assessed on static events including business, cost and design," Nathan says. "So we had to present a manufacturing and marketing strategy, a detailed cost of the car if it were to be mass manufactured and then we had industry professionals, even some Formula 1 experts, come and assess the design."
University of Waikato students work on a car each year, following the contents of a weighty rule book that outlines all the requirements for the competition. “But there’s still a lot of room for innovation, which is why it’s such a great project for a young engineer to get involved in,” Nathan says.
Students are allowed to take parts of the vehicle used in the previous year’s competition, such as the engine, shocks and wheels. “This year we redid the entire car apart from the intake, exhaust and body shell,” says Nathan. “The chassis, suspension, drive train and rest of the aero kit were completely resigned – it was a lot for our small team to take on.”
The car’s now back from Melbourne and will be handed over to the next crop of Waikato engineering students so they can work towards this year’s competition.
“We have even more ideas for development, so we’ll pass them on and also tell the new group what did and didn’t work so well in Melbourne, give them some ideas to work on.”
Having completed his studies, Nathan has secured a job as design engineer at Patchell Industries in Rotorua.