Formula SAE ranks 6th at June Competition, EV poised for top 3 during inspections

NC State University’s Formula SAE team landed their second top 10 placement this year at the 2022 June Michigan FSAE competition at the Michigan International Speedway, where both the Internal combustion and Electric vehicles entered the competitions. 

The team placed 6th overall out of 48 teams from all over the world, but also placed 2nd in Autocross, 5th in Design, 5th in Acceleration, 9th in Skidpad and 17th in Endurance. This is the team’s second trip to the Michigan International Speedway this year after 2022 May Michigan FSAE competition, where the team placed 9th overall out of nearly 100 teams. 

Despite some differences from the May competition, Formula SAE Powertrain Lead Jake Scinta said, the team had an excellent showing in June and they were able to make necessary fixes on the fly  – showing the resolve and technical ability of the team. 

“This competition was much different than the May competition,” Scinta said Monday. “Due to a shortage of event volunteers, they switched to a different style of static technical inspection that took all of Wednesday and the beginning of Thursday. We had a few things they wanted us to change before we could get reinspected, none of them were major and all were fixed quickly. We made it through re-tech by early afternoon on Thursday.”

The car passed the tilt test on it’s first try, an improvement compared to the may competition where it took three tries. The noise test gave the team some trouble, as the car was too loud at idle due to the mufflers getting worn over time and needing to be repaired. The team took the mufflers back to the hotel and came up with a fix that enabled them to pass the event first try the following morning. 

That same day, the team tackled the dynamic events. According to Scinta, their strategy was to run the dynamic events early on in case their car suffered a failure like it did during the May competition  – a hindrance that did not impose on the team’s ability to perform impeccably. Luckily, no such failure occurred at the june competition. 

The car performed well in acceleration, although Scinta said the team thinks they could have done better if they had been able to run the event with tires that gone through their first heat cycle, but they did not have time to wear them in and still complete the acceleration event. Even with this slight hiccup, the team manages to place 5th in the Acceleration event. During the Skidpad event the team was looking like they would earn a top three position, but as the more cars heated up the track, the times for the cars that followed them got quicker and quicker, but still they managed to secure a solid 5th place ranking. 

“Autocross was also stress free,” Scinta said. “Neither driver hit any cones or got any penalties, and the second driver was able to set a run qualifying for 1st place which only one team managed to beat by 15 hundredths of a second.”

Next, during the Endurance event, the team ran into overheating issues. The car died five or more times with the second driver and while they are not entirely sure what caused the issue, they believe that the battery was overheating since it is right next to the exhaust manifold.

The team’s final competition of the year, the Pittsburgh Shootout, is less than two weeks away. While this is an unofficial competition, Scinta said the team is excited to compete again, especially since the Shootout is solely for fun and it gives the 35 competing teams time to socialize with one another after the races.

“We are also bringing many new members so they get to see the cars in action and give them more motivation for designing next year’s car,” Scinta said. “We came in 5th at this event last year, pulling off a top 3 this year is definitely within reach.”

Also at the 2022 June Michigan FSAE competition was Formula SAE’s Electric Vehicle (EV), which competes separately from the more traditional Internal Combustion cars. 

The day after the EV’s arrival, the car passed tech inspections for it’s accumulator, insulation monitoring device (IMD), and charger/charging system amid several minor fixes that the team had to make throughout the day. 

After a brief rain delay the following day, the car was on to the design competition and mechanical tech inspections, which includes going to several stations and having all parts of the car checked out for safety and specification requirements. In the first station, the driver is checked to make sure there is proper clearance from their helmet to the roll hoop. The driver must also prove that they can exit the vehicle fully secured within 5 seconds. There are 8 more stations to pass. Roll bar thickness, chassis specifications, the way fasteners are secured, suspension, and placement of specific components are all checked with great scrutiny.

“We had positions in our chassis that were out of spec by approximately 10 mm, which required us to weld in new support gussets in several areas,” EV team member Isaac Mayle said Monday. “This was promptly fixed by team members JP Cantonwine and Erika Bogue. Several more minor fixes were completed by other team members.”

The next day, after going through reinspections and passing on all marks, the team hit a serious snag when approaching the electrical tech inspections. An energy meter is provided at the competition to measure the car’s energy usage and when the team went to install the meter, they found that they had made a slight packaging error and hadn’t allowed quite enough room to install the energy meter. The team quickly tried to find a solution, but unfortunately, they were unable to solve the issue before tech inspections closed, rendering them unable to compete in the dynamic racing events. 

Of the 55 cars that entered the EV competition, only 11 cars competed in the Endurance event, and five of them completed only a lap or two before breaking.

“Our car was faster than most cars and if it were have passed electrical tech, we could have possibly made a top 3 finish,” Mayle said. “We learned a lot from this competition. We built a great car, but a few mistakes cost us greatly. Time permitting, we could have resolved them, but that is a part of the competition.”

The EV team came in 3rd place in the Siemens Electrical Digital Twin Engineering Excellence Award for their usage of one of their software packages to design their wire harnesses.

According to Mayle, the team received very positive feedback from the design judges and they are optimistic moving forward as they look toward recruiting more members and pursuing more sponsors.