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Off To The Races: Mechanical Engineering Students Race to Strong 15th Place in National SAE Competition

May 24, 2012

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students are on the fast track, placing a strong 15th in the Society of Automotive Engineers' formula racing challenge, one of the most competitive of collegiate engineering design challenges.

       SAE 2012
  Speed Racer: Rose-Hulman's Formula SAE race car speeds down the race track during this year's competition at Michigan International Speedway. 

The Formula SAE competition has teams designing, building and testing a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote problem solving.

Then, over the course of three days at Michigan International Speedway (MIS), the vehicles were judged in a series of static and dynamic events, including: cost analysis, engineering design, solo performance trials and high-performance track endurance. The events are scored to determine how well the car performs.

Better motor performance and a 72-pound weight reduction helped Rose-Hulman improve 40 positions from last year's 55th place performance. The team was a model of consistency on the track, placing 14th in the endurance event, 17th in the skidpad event, 20th in the economy event and 22nd in the autocross event.

"We designed smart, had great teamwork and knew how our vehicle performed-inside and out," stated Andrew Marrack, a senior mechanical engineering major. "It's hard to put into words the feeling of accomplishment that this team has in this vehicle."

Fellow senior mechanical engineering student, Malhon Godwin added, "The highlight was seeing everything come together in one competitive race car-from tubes in the garage last fall to one of the strongest teams at the competition this spring. It has been a labor of love for some dedicated team members."

Students and faculty advisors Patrick Cunningham and Daniel Kawano also take pride in re-establishing Rose-Hulman in the Formula SAE competition after a 21-year absence.

"Other teams and the SAE officials took notice of our strong performance this year," stated Daniel Watson, a senior mechanical engineering major. "The seniors came into this project wanting to showcase Rose-Hulman in this top racing competition. We're not satisfied yet, but we have taken big strides during the past two years. We have set a strong foundation for the future."

SAE team      
Proud Of Effort: Members of Rose-Hulman's Formula SAE race team were proud of this year's 15th-place finish, which was quite an improvement from last year's 55th-place showing.

This year's Formula SAE competition attracted 118 teams from Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, Venezuela, and the United States.  Rose-Hulman's performance this year was eighth best among American college and university teams. The team also earned a Formula SAE Recognition of Accomplishment Award for successfully scoring in all events.

"It was exciting to see the creativity and innovation displayed by collegiate engineering students who are preparing to enter the workforce," stated Matt Miller, director of the SAE Foundation and pre-professional programs, in a news release about this year's event. "Events like Formula SAE competitions showcase the talents of students from around the world who are the future of our industry. The highly competitive outcomes of the competitions were a testament to the education these students are receiving in the classroom."

Godwin, one of the drivers for the Rose-Hulman team, stated, "Passing other cars on the track was really fun. Knowing that we had built a fast car, entirely from scratch, really got our competitive juices racing."

Sophomore mechanical engineering student Cody Jolly brought considerable go-cart racing experience to driving Rose-Hulman's vehicle in the endurance and autocross events.

"Being behind the wheel of that car was thrilling and awesome. I couldn't get enough," he stated. "Really, I didn't want the competition to end. I was having too much fun. This was definitely my best experience so far at Rose-Hulman. I can't wait until next year."

See what it is like to drive Rose-Hulman's Formula SAE racer at

Other drivers were Graham Blyth, a senior mechanical engineering major, Godwin and Watson. Senior Matt Kennedy and junior Jay Kautz made the team's cost impact presentation.

The Formula SAE project is part of Rose-Hulman's Advanced Transportation Systems program. Learn more about the program at