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Revved up: ASU race car crew ready to impress at international competition

June 16, 2017

A confident Arizona State University team is gearing up for what is widely considered the toughest international student automotive design and performance competition.

About 30 members of ASU’s chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers are planning to make the trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the 2017 Formula SAE event June 21-24.

Those students are about half the number of the chapter’s members who have been working for much of the past year on the race car that will be put to the test against about 80 other teams from colleges and universities throughout the United States and several other countries.

“We have been designing, engineering and building almost nonstop since last June,” said Troy Buhr, the Formula SAE team captain who graduated this spring with a mechanical engineering degree from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“We’ve had workshop days just about every Saturday, and in the past two months we have been in the shop almost every day,” he said.

Refined design and cool features

What the sustained effort has wrought is stoking Buhr’s optimism about the team’s prospects for success at the Formula SAE competition.

He notes that this is the third straight year the SAE chapter has produced a brand-new race car from start to finish — the first time that has been done by the student organization.

The trend had been for the ASU teams to build a new car about every five years. So designing and assembling new cars in three consecutive years “is a huge accomplishment because it shows we are building a strong foundation of teamwork and using the new knowledge we’ve gained year to year,” Buhr said.

Equally as significant, the 2017 car is the first in the chapter’s more than 25-year history to have a full package of aerodynamic features, highlighted by front and rear wings on the vehicle.

“This shows our design skills are maturing,” Buhr said. “Full aerodynamics packages create more downforce, which enables cars to go through corners faster. Plus, it makes the car more closely resemble a Formula One race car.”

Such a resemblance, he adds, gives the car a “cooler” look that’s “more professional and less like a go-kart."

The new race car also sports 10-inch wheels instead of the 13-inch wheels used in years past. The new wheels, along with a decrease in the size and weight of other components, should enable the vehicle to perform more efficiently.

Teams challenged to demonstrate multiple skills

At the competition, cars are evaluated through highly detailed technical inspections and cost analysis. Teams must submit an in-depth evaluation of the fundamental engineering principles that guided the design and building of the car.

There’s also a sales presentation that requires teams to make the business case for how mass production of their vehicle could be a profitable venture.

On the track, cars are judged on their proficiency in acceleration, braking, general driving stability, overall efficiency and endurance. They must be driven on an autocross run, a timed competition requiring drivers to navigate a track designed to test the vehicle’s responsiveness and road-handling capabilities.

“The idea is to test every aspect of a team’s engineering and teamwork skills,” Buhr said.

Just getting into the competition requires a test of the team’s fundraising skills. The cost of producing the race car amounted to about $30,000, and then there was the $2,250 registration fee to enter the Formula SAE event.

To cover costs, the team launched a crowdfunding campaign and secured industry sponsorship and other support from dozens of companies, including Ford, AEI Fabrication, Industrial Metal Supply, Solidworks and PPE Engineering.

“All of these challenges are what makes this a great club,” Buhr said. “The competition forces us to apply the engineering knowledge that we are learning in class to actually creating a high-performance vehicle.”

The project management, collaborative labor, financing and other aspects of the endeavor “are training our members for work in industry,” said Buhr, who will soon begin a job with Ford Motor Company in Michigan.

Preparing to make a big splash

“What’s really cool is that we’re not just an engineering team,” said the team’s industry partnership manager, Robert Tichy. “We want to be an engineering organization that pulls in students with diverse talents from several schools.”

Tichy notes that the team’s crowdfunding effort was aided this year by members who are pursuing degrees in business and communications fields. They helped with advertising for the fundraising campaign.

The team is looking to add journalism and art students in the near future to benefit from their particular skills, he said.

 “Above all else, our primary goal is to develop the technical, professional and communication skills of our members,” Buhr said.

Right up at No. 2 on the SAE chapter’s list of goals this year is boosting the team’s reputation among its peers by placing within the top 25 among the formidable contenders it will face at the upcoming Formula SAE competition.

“Our aerodynamics package really sets a new standard for our team,” Tichy said. “No one can count ASU out, and I think we’re going to make a big splash in Lincoln. I’m looking forward to seeing heads turn as we perform.”

Top photo: Members of the ASU chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers and their supporters gathered recently for the unveiling of a new race car equipped with aerodynamic features designed to boost the vehicle’s performance. Photo by Pete Zrioka/ASU 

Joe Kullman

Science writer , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

ASU student wins top collegiate honor at Arizona Photojournalism Awards


June 16, 2017

For the fifth straight year, a journalism student at Arizona State University has been named the top collegiate photojournalist in the state by the Arizona Press Club.

Courtney Pedroza of Phoenix, a recent graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, won the College Photographer of the Year Award in the 2016 Arizona Press Club Photojournalism Awards. She joins past Cronkite student winners: Sean Logan (2015), Connor Radnovich (2014), Jessie Wardarski (2013) and Aaron Lavinsky (2012). Courtney Pedroza Courtney Pedroza, a recent graduate of ASU's Cronkite School, won the College Photographer of the Year Award in the 2016 Arizona Press Club Photojournalism Awards. Download Full Image

Cronkite School student Ben Moffat of Tempe, Arizona, finished third in the collegiate contest. Moffat also placed in two professional categories, taking second in feature photography and third in sports pictorial, competing against some of the state’s best professional photojournalists.

Pedroza’s winning entry included photos from Brazil, Slovakia and Mexico as well as a photo from the 2016 Summer Olympics, which she covered for Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS. Her portfolio also featured photos depicting Arizona’s gun culture that she produced as part of a Cronkite class taught by National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier and several photos that she took in Mexico for the Dallas Morning News.

“The Cronkite School gave me so many opportunities,” Pedroza said. “It really opened my eyes to what kind of photojournalism that I want to pursue — and that’s telling stories and documenting someone’s life and being able to show what it is that they’re going through.”

In addition to her Arizona Press Club honor, Pedroza, who is interning this summer at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, recently won the Cronkite School’s Greg Crowder Memorial Photojournalism Award contest, which honors the best student photojournalist each year. Pedroza also won the award in 2016, making her the only student to win the honor twice. Second place went to Moffat, and Cronkite student Reilly Kneedler of East Wenatchee, Washington, received an honorable mention.

The Crowder Award was established by Troy and Betsy Crowder of Chandler, Arizona, in memory of their late son, 1980 Cronkite graduate Greg Crowder.

The Arizona Photojournalism Awards are an annual competition held by the Arizona Press Club, a nonprofit organization of professional reporters, editors, photographers and designers from publications across the state. The group also sponsors training seminars, scholarships and networking events.

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

602-496-5118