Mechanical engineering students build car for competition in California

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

Five of SDSU’s mechanical engineering seniors have designed a mini-indy car which they will compete with in California this summer.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) will host an international competition in California from June 25 to 29. Eighty-two other schools from across the globe will also compete in the vehicle design contest.

“This is a great event for everyone,” said Shawn Duan, the SDSU organization’s adviser. “They have all learned a lot from it.”

The team is currently finishing the car, and they are planning on unveiling it to the public on April 25.

“The car was designed from the ground up by five seniors and about a handful of underclassmen are helping us put it together,” said David Brua, a senior mechanical engineering major, president of SDSU’s engineering club and captain of the team that is building the car. “All together there have been about 10 to 15 people helping build the car.”

The California competition, held at California Motor Speedway in Fontana, Calif., lasts four days, and throughout it, the team’s car will be judged on multiple factors. They will be judged on the overall design of the car as well as how much it cost to put it together, the acceleration and breaking ability and its endurance relating to its fuel resources.

The team will maneuver their car around a series of cones, curves and sharp corners to check its maneuverability. The car will be placed on a tilt table to test exactly how far it can be tipped until it turns over. The last factors the car will be judged on are whether or not it could be produced at a reasonable cost and how well the car will run overall.

“We hope to be able to bring out everyone who helped build the car with us and not just us five seniors,” said Brua.

The team has received a large amount of their sponsorship for the car from the Students’ Association at SDSU as well as some from Daktronics and other businesses in the Sioux Falls area, said Duan.

In 2006, the students built a mini-baja car and took it to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ World Congress competition in Milwaukee, Wisc. The mini-baja car was smaller and slower, whereas the mini-indy car is built more for speed.

“The students have worked very hard on this car, starting with just a basic idea and then making each part by hand,” said Duan. “They put a lot of time into it.”

The club wants to let everyone know that all majors are welcome. Engineering is not the only skill used to make this car; there are many other factors and areas that go into it. “We are always looking for more people,” Duan said.

For more information on the Society of Automotive Engineers or on the 2008 SAE World Congress, visit their Web site at