Each year, the Society of Automotive Engineers hosts a national competition for students to enter independently designed and engineered race cars.
Last year, Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah collaborated on a car entered in the Formula SAE Electric competition. In this division of the contest, all cars are electric.
“The competition itself is one of the largest in the nation,” says Pete Reed, program manager of advanced manufacturing at SLCC.
According to FSAEonline, the winner of the competition receives $1,000 and recognition from one of the largest professional engineering organizations in the world. Although SAE holds several competitions, the Formula contests draw the most attention, adds Reed.
What sets this team of student engineers apart from competition, though, is the collaborative nature of their efforts.
“The students from the U. found out that we have a composites lab and just asked, ‘Hey can we use your lab? Can you give us a little help?’ And I was more than happy to,” says Reed.
The stipulation, however, was that students help Reed find a lab aide.
“That lab aide was forthcoming, and is [now] one of my instructors,” says Reed of U. engineering student, Zachary Ingrey.
This condition was only met, however, since SLCC’s facilities at the Westpointe Center are unrivaled by the U. Since then, the SLCC and U. electric car team has steadily progressed.
“Last year was the second time the car went to competition,” says Reed. “There are a whole bunch of boxes they have to hit, and they didn’t hit all of them, so they didn’t get to race.”
But, that outcome is par for the course in competitions like this.
“It usually takes a few years to have a fully functional on-the-track car, so where they are is pretty solid,” says Reed.
Moreover, Reed believes students being given the opportunity to solve real-world problems in the lab is an invaluable experience.
“So many people are tactile learners, and many of them end up learning so much more when they get to solve problems themselves,” says Reed. “The classroom helped them solve that problem, but they’re able to dive so much deeper if they can do it themselves, make mistakes, find the problems and fix them.”
The team is also comprised of students in multiple academic disciplines, says Reed. In a 2019 interview published on SLCC’s blog, The Fountain, Ingrey says the team includes business, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science majors. Reed also notes that SLCC welding students have taken part.
All disciplines are welcome to participate, providing they have an interest and a way to contribute to the project, he says.
“We made it a non-credit class so that anyone who wants to get involved can,” says Reed.
All that is required is that students sign up and pay a $50 tuition fee, all of which goes toward funding the project.
To learn more about all the programs and opportunities offered at the Westpointe Workforce Training and Education Center, visit slcc.edu/westpointe.