Texas A&M Formula SAE team takes top prize in competition

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The Texas A&M Formula SAE team won the overall championship at Formula SAE Lincoln in Nebraska against a field of 80 collegiate teams from around the country.

“It was a big deal to finally bring the trophy back home,” said Ryan Monheim, senior in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University and project manager for the team. “It’s especially important for us because we start fresh every year. A lot of the teams we compete against they just kind of build on their car every year, so for us to start from scratch and still take down a bunch of big teams, that was a big deal.”

SAE3The Texas A&M Formula SAE program is a senior capstone project in the mechanical engineering department in which 21 students design and build a race car. The competition at the end of the year not only features on-track events, but teams are also graded on their engineering design, cost and business case presentation.

According to Monheim, the team had a feeling going into the competition that they had a chance to be among the leaders, and there was a defining moment when they realized they had a chance to win the top prize.

“Before we got there we thought we were probably a contender, but we didn’t really know for sure what the other teams were bringing,” he said. “I think when we really knew we were going to win was during the middle of the endurance event when our main competition had to pull off the track. We knew then we just had to get the car home and finish, and that’s exactly what we did.”

If that gave them confidence they had become the favorites, then the championship was all but solidified when the team also unexpectedly claimed the top spot in the fuel efficiency category.

Finishing first in the endurance and fuel efficiency categories, second in engineering design and third in autocross, the combined results gave the Aggies the overall championship with a combined 915 of a possible 1000 total points. The Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Kansas came in second and third respectively.

According to course lecturer and team advisor Yuval Doron, the students invested more than 72,000 man-hours over the course of nine months. They started in September with concept development before finishing with a highly-engineered race car.

“I am always amazed at the level of engineering that goes into the design development, fabrication and testing,” Doron said. “This is a high-caliber event that demands tremendous focus and sacrifice from the students, and they manage to pull through every year, this year being extra special.”

For students looking to get into automotive engineering, Formula SAE has been a successful stepping stone. Monheim and two of his teammates have accepted jobs at General Motors in Detroit, which also was the team’s largest sponsor this year. Several other students on the team have also accepted jobs in the auto industry.

This is the program’s sixth national championship. They previously won in 2000, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011. This year’s car was unveiled at the Texas A&M house during the South by Southwest festival in Austin.