Formula SAE | Spotlight

Picture of Cal State L.A. Formula SAE vehicle.
Cal State L.A.’s Formula SAE prototype race car speeds away.

Cal State L.A. builds the ‘Formula’ to success

Best Student Paper Award presented to CSULA’s senior design team

Based on its technical methodology and the quality of its measurement data of its prototype race car, Cal State L.A.’s Formula SAE senior design team received the Best Student Paper Award at the 2012 Measurement Science Conference (MSC).

The conference, which took place during the spring in Anaheim, focused on the future of science and the challenges to be faced moving into the future, specifically new techniques in metrology—the science of measurement—for commercial, medical and government applications.

Pictured: Cal State L.A. Formula SAE senior design team.
Cal State L.A. Formula SAE senior design team members (l-r) Roque Catarino, Juan Martinez, Samuel MacKinney, Ramiro Galicia, and Arturo Huang-Li with CSULA Professor Trinh Pham and Measurement Science Conference chair Gloria Neely.

“Winning the Best Student Paper Award at the MSC is a great honor for the students and for the College,” said faculty adviser Trinh Pham, professor of mechanical engineering at CSULA. “When the conference organizer visited us on campus to present the award, she mentioned how proud she was of our students, and expressed interest in having us participate again next year.”

Under the supervision of Professor Pham, CSULA’s senior design team members Roque Catarino, Ramiro Galicia, Arturo Huang-Li, Samuel MacKinney, and Juan Martinez were given the task of assisting CSULA’s Formula SAE student competition team in designing, fabricating, and testing a single-seat, Formula One race car.

According to the paper abstract, CSULA’s Formula SAE senior design team will be working to improve engine power output, while adhering to vehicle restrictions, such as a maximum engine displacement of 610cc, and a 20mm-diameter intake system restrictor. It stated: “The redesign will require the senior design team to work closely with CSULA students working on other vehicle sub-systems, to ensure that all vehicle components are well-integrated.”

The annual Formula SAE competition, developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), is formulated to challenge students in nearly every aspect of engineering, from conceptualization to design then manufacturing. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype race car based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving.

MacKinney found the award to be very encouraging, an indication that the team’s work was seen as effective and clearly presented.

Established in 1970, the MSC provides a professional forum for government, industry and academia that offers: education and training in testing, calibration and measurement; information on testing, calibration and the latest advances in measurement; challenges and issues facing the national measurement and traceability chain; and an event which furthered professional contacts, business opportunities and government/industry/ academia interaction and understanding.

“I've been a part of the Formula SAE team since fall 2009, and it has been one of my favorite experiences here at CSULA,” said MacKinney, who attended to the mechanical concepts key to the operation of the engine and the drivetrain as a starting point for the team’s detailed designs. “My goal was to gain a more detailed understanding of the basic concepts of engine dynamics that I’ve encountered over my last two years with the team.”

Martinez, who worked on modeling, testing and manufacturing of the vehicles components, explained, “My contribution to the team was mainly on the intake system of the Formula SAE vehicle. This task was very demanding, requiring research and concept analysis. Starting with just a few assumptions and an idea, this project led us to the rigorous steps of completing a finalized product, which was tuned specifically to the engine’s configuration and performance.”

The senior design team was grateful for the recognition it received from the MSC board as well as the opportunity for hands-on, real world experience.

“One of the most important things I learned about this project is,” said Martinez, “you don’t learn from the final outcome, you learn from the journey. Although at times I did not sleep, and pushed 40 to 50 hours a week when the project demanded of it, the experience was worth it all. Needless to say, I would do it all over again.”

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