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See a video clip of the 2013 UMD racecar in action.

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At the 2013 Michigan Competition
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UMD Students Create Custom Designed Racecar for National Competition

For the fourth time, University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) students are on track to design, construct, and test a Formula One racecar in order to compete in the 2014 nationwide Formula SAE ® university competition at the Michigan International Speedway from May 14–17.

The UMD Formula SAE student organization is behind the wheel. This group of over 20 students, each with unique skills, was founded in 2006 and has already raced three cars against other colleges in Formula SAE ® competition.

The concept of the competition is for students to design, build, and race a car that is high-performance, low cost, easy to maintain, and suitable for manufacture.

Students run the project like a small business, from the technical design to the management of an interdisciplinary team. They do everything from raising money to fund the project, to presenting a business case to a prospective manufacturer. They prepare a detailed manufacturing and cost analysis, showing complete understanding of what it takes to bring a product to market.

And they manufacturer the car's components in the UMD labs, which are equipped with lathes, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) mills, and their own waterjet cutting machine. The waterjet is the latest addition to the department and has helped speed up the manufacturing process. And once the car is built, the fine-tuning begins, as the team tests, retools, and prepares the vehicle for competition.

Once registered, each vehicle can only be used for a 12-month period. UMD entered the Michigan International Speedway in May 2013. Now they are constructing a new car for the Lincoln, Nebraska competition in June 2013. In this scenario, the team competes each year and has the opportunity to perfect the design.

Under the hood, making the project run, are the group leaders: Justin Olson, senior mechanical engineering major and team captain; Ben Logan, senior mechanical engineering major, and assistant team captain; and Vadim Vechirko, senior mechanical engineering major, assistant team captain and suspension lead. The club is led by the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and guided by their advisor, Professor Daniel H. Pope.

Olson worked on the University of Birmingham’s Formula One Student team while studying abroad in England. "I can’t tell you how exciting it was to work with English engineers, at a school with decades of experience," he said. "They had sponsors such as Audi and Aston Martin."

Olson brought energy to the UMD program. He drove the 2013 car and serves as is the team captain for the new vehicle. "I’m a sucker for an adrenaline rush," he said. "But last year, the highlight by far, was the moment we left the endurance track. Dr. Pope was so enthusiastic when he told us we passed another car for the first time.” Olson says the team is passionate and determined. "The amount of knowledge and practical experience you acquire while participating in a program like this is unparalleled. This is where everything you learn in the classroom, think freshman calculus, comes alive. It all starts to make sense."

UMD's car is sponsored by Cliffs, Amsoil, Archer Racing Accessories, Bendtec, Cirrus, and Altec.

Formula One or Formula 1 or F1
- A car built by a racing team to unique specifications governing Formula One races. The car is a single-seat, open cockpit car with the engine positioned behind the driver. The wheels are not covered and front and rear wings are attached to create a downward force.
UMD Formula SAE -
This is the UMD Formula SAE student organization
Formula SAE ® (or FSAE) -
This is a student competition put on by SAE (Formerly Society of Automotive Engineers)

Story by Cheryl Reitan, December, 2013.

UMD Feature News | News Releases
UMD Feature News editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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