News • May 20, 2021

SAE club revving up for Formula competition

SAE club revving up for Formula competition

Riverside, Calif. (May 20, 2021) – When the driver of the Formula car made a pitstop, students from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) club circled around. Some changed the tires, a couple worked on the brakes and others were checking the electronics.  

On this track day in April, the California Baptist University students were testing tires and checking the decibels at certain RPMs among other assessments. Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside gave the team permission to use part of its parking lot for its track days. The students were preparing for the Formula SAE International Competition set for Las Vegas in June.

“We usually are never this far ahead in our design,” said Katie Mast (’21). “Typically, we are testing after we are done with school for the semester.”

Previous years, the team would scramble to complete the car in time to test it before the competition. The rules only require a new chassis for every competition, but the majority of the car is rebuilt in order to further improve the car’s performance and reliability, Mast said.

When the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020, the car was about 65 percent complete, Mast said. Last fall, the students were able to go back to the shop in the Dennis and Carol Troesh Engineering Building and complete it. The team was aiming for about 25 hours of testing this year, which is more than double than what they normally have, Mast said.

“This was a 2-year car, which was a benefit to us to have that extra time,” Mast said. “Next year, the goal is to condense the design schedule in order to maximize our build time and testing time. The goal every year is to get more testing time to improve reliability.”

SAE club revving up for Formula competition

Mast had no experience with cars when she joined the Society of Automotive Engineers student club as a freshman. By her senior year she was the club president and the design lead on the driver controls. She is now working at SpaceX.

“My involvement on the team was a highlight of my time at CBU, and I would encourage anyone interested to get involved,” Mast said. “From all disciplines of engineering to business and graphic design majors, SAE provides a platform to gain real-world experience and reinforce the lessons that we are all taught in classes.” 

The SAE competition includes presentations on cost and design as well as dynamic events such as acceleration and autocross. The presentations have been held virtually the past few months.

When Mast joined the club, it had about 10 committed students, she said. Now there are about 30, and the club has different positions and structure to transfer knowledge, Mast said. Each subsystem, such as ergonomics, power train and electronics, has a senior design lead, a junior lead who will take over the next year and younger students as interns.

Jordan Fabbrini, a mechanical engineering senior, is the incoming president and the senior design lead for powertrain. The club has taught him about problem-solving.

“I’ve learned technical, hands-on skills along with project management, team structure, staying scheduled and keeping people accountable,” Fabbrini said. “I think that’s been the biggest thing, learning how other people work and trying to get a group of people to work toward a common goal.”

Josh Bigley (’21) is one of the drivers.

“Being a young college kid, I was thinking I’m just going to go as fast as I can. But you have to find that balance, it’s about slowly increasing speed,” Bigley said. “It’s a really strong car, our best one yet. For racing, there are no creature comforts, but it’s fun. It drives really well.”

He is also the senior design lead for the electronics.

“There is a lot of cool technology on the car. It’s just trying to get it all to work in time,” Bigley said. “I’ve learned nothing ever goes the way you think it will. I have this big plan in my mind when I plug everything in, and it doesn’t go the way you expect it to, but you can try to get as close as possible. It’s always problem-solving.”

Dr. Philip van Haaster, club advisor and department chair of aerospace, industrial and mechanical engineering, said academic training is critical to developing the theoretical understanding of physical interactions and interdependence. But real-world events require engineers to be practitioners of theory and spontaneous contributors of innovation. 

“Anyone involved with Formula SAE will be exposed to both of these demanding situations,” van Haaster said. “They will analyze vehicle dynamics and apply powerful and proven engineering solutions, while reacting to unforeseen track conditions during the competition that may require the team to pivot and re-evaluate solutions in a matter of hours. Intense? Absolutely! Fulfilling? Undoubtedly!”

Lindsay Monroe, a mechanical engineering sophomore, wants to work on roller coasters in the future. She worked as a driver control intern.

“I was really interested in being a part of an opportunity that allowed me to have hands-on experience, especially my freshman year because I knew it would get me ahead,” Monroe said. “SAE is a very real-world application. We also get to learn things we’ll study later in our years so we’re kind of ahead of our class, which is pretty cool.”

Contact CBU Marketing and Communication

Vice President for Marketing and Communication:
Angela Meluski
Email: ameluski@calbaptist.edu

8432 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92504