A team from Hope College will participate in the international Formula SAE competition at Michigan International Speedway on Wednesday-Saturday, May 11-14, that will feature cars designed and built by students.

The Hope team is one of 120 from around the world registered for the event, which includes competitors from institutions of higher education across the United States as well as Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea and Venezuela.  Hope is the only undergraduate college among the 11 schools from Michigan that are fielding teams.

It is the second time that Hope students have competed in Formula SAE.  In 2010, the college’s team won the William C. Mitchell Rookie Award for having achieved the highest overall score among first-time teams.

The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car.  The prototype car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item.  Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is to provide standards while promoting clever problem solving.

The Formula SAE competition is not just a race.  Instead, the teams are evaluated in a series of static and dynamic events, including presentation, design, cost analysis, acceleration, cornering ability, maneuverability and handling, fuel economy and endurance.

The international Formula SAE organization provides a variety of design parameters within which the participants must work, but beyond that the teams make their own decisions.  Some of the parts are pre-fabricated, like the 600cc Honda motorcycle engine that provides the power.  Others—like the frame itself--have been developed by the group, starting with initial concept, and then moving through design and theoretical testing using the computer and ultimately to fabrication and construction.

The Hope students have been working on their entry for about a year and a half.  Approximately 20 students have been involved with the college’s Formula SAE student group during that time.

Most of the participants have been engineering majors, but the group is open to any student and other majors have included communication, management and religion.  While a significant amount of the work is done by students on their own time and initiative, some of the team members have also chosen to design subsystems for the car through their participation in the college’s Engineering Design capstone course, a two-semester sequence which features design teams comprised of senior engineering students.