Waikato wins at Australasian Formula SAE

15 December 2022

The University of Waikato’s entry was the first with a full carbon fibre aerodynamics package including a front wing, rear wing and undertray plus a new engine.

A team of engineering students from the University of Waikato won first place overall for an internal combustion vehicle in the Formula SAE-A competition held in Australia last week.

Formula SAE-A is an international student engineering design competition organised by the Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia.  University students design, build and compete in a Formula-style open-wheeled racing car, racing on tight tracks demanding fast-accelerating, agile cars.

The Waikato team, WESMO (Waikato Engineering Students Motorsport Organisation), made up of 10 final year engineering students, was one of thirty university teams competing at the four-day event at the Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria, Australia last week.  Three teams represented New Zealand (Canterbury, Auckland and Waikato Universities), one from Taiwan and the rest from Australia.

WESMO team leaders Tom Miller and Aidan Graham say the team are ecstatic.

“We’re pretty sure this is the first time a Kiwi team has ever won, which makes this result feel so much more important.  We had some major challenges to overcome with limited people and budget compared with the much larger teams we were up against, and the added stresses of shipping timeframes didn’t help either.

“Placing second for engineering design in combustion and third overall show that we can really give the bigger teams a run  for their money,” Tom said.

Aidan said he is immensely proud of what the team achieved and the work they put in leading up to, and during the competition.

“After facing issues on both days of the competition the whole team stayed positive and kept working to get us back out on track. I can’t thank everyone who helped enough, especially the team at RMIT Racing who leant us the parts needed to get the car running.”

The student-built cars are entered in one of three vehicle classes:  Internal Combustion, Electric and Autonomous.  They are judged on overall design, cost, manufacturing quality and business logic, where teams are able to share their design ideas and display excellence in marketing and finance.

Dynamic events test a vehicle’s track performance, acceleration, skid-pad and autocross track handling, endurance and efficiency.

Dean of the School of Engineering Professor Mike Duke says the competition helps students put into practice the outcome of their studies in a real-world environment.

“They get a chance to develop their problem-solving, teamwork and communication skills, alongside design, management, manufacturing, research and business operations.  These skills are in demand by potential employers and I’ve no doubt our Formula students will be highly sought after across the engineering industry,” he said.

The University of Auckland took out top place overall in the Electric Vehicles class.

The University of Waikato’s entry this year is the first with a full carbon fibre aerodynamics package including a front wing, rear wing and undertray plus a new engine.  Next year the team is planning to enter an  electric vehicle.

The team are planning to take some time off with family and friends over the Christmas break, and then continue the search for jobs to pursue their passion for motorsports.

“My biggest learning from the whole experience is that despite all the challenges we faced, it's possible to succeed if you persevere and work together,” said Tom.

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