Automotive engineers set sights race car construction

Spinnaker

The president of an engineering club at UNF literally stood up for what he believed. Starting the Society of Automotive Engineers club at UNF and having a goal for the club to build a race car to compete with in a years time. 

During his second semester at UNF, he stood up and pitched the idea to a bunch of people on the first day of class, and they were really interested, said Justin Tussey, a mechanical engineering junior and president of UNF’s chapter of the society. 

That is how he found vice president Peter Cerreta, and they have been going full steam for about the past three months trying to make it happen, Tussey said.

Tussey, Cerreta and about 15 more engineering students from UNF are trying to build a formula series race car, which can reach upward to 100 miles per hour using a motorcycle engine, in order to compete with other college engineering programs all throughout the country. The car is set to be completed by May 12, 2011, but Tussey said they’re trying to get a head start, by starting as early as possible. This will be the clubs second week. 

“A lot of teams suffer from not organizing properly, so they’re doing last minute things, like putting the paint on the car on the way to Michigan,” he said. “I don’t want to be that team.”

In Brooklyn, Mich. each May, the society hosts a competition called the Formula Design Series, where several university chapters of the organization travel to race their cars against each other.

The UNF chapter will be attending the event this year but not too compete, Tussey said. Because this is their first year as an official club, they wanted to go as spectators, so they can have a heads up of what things will be like when they’re ready to compete next spring.

“In order to do well in Michigan, we’re going to need the technical tools along with the know-how,” said Cerreta, who is also mechanical engineering junior. “We’re going to need a strong digital design and skilled machinists for the car. We’re also trying to find a garage to work in.”

They also have to raise the money needed to build a formula series race car. One of these cars can cost anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000 to produce, Tussey said.

The UNF club developed a sponsorship packet and campaign letters over Spring Break to send to national companies in order to gain funding. They’re planning to ask all the big car companies, like Ford, GM and Chevrolet, for support, Tussey said.

But once they are able to get the necessary funds, the engineering students still face a long process of designing and building the car for competition.

“The process is you design your car on the computer, and then you build the physical car,” Tussey said. “And the way you start is with your suspension, and then based on that you will have points on a three dimensional space and that will be the outline of your body.”

The UNF students are hoping to have the skeleton of the car designed by the end of the summer, and they’re not expecting to run into any trouble with the build.

“The hard part isn’t building the car,” Tussey said. “That part comes easy to the engineers. The hard part is keeping people who have to keep up with schoolwork involved and dedicated.”

But for those who really love cars, the reasons to stay involved are obvious.

Evan Hathaway, a mechanical engineering junior who joined the club, said even though he thinks getting a job in the automotive industry would be great, he joined the club for the fun of it.

“I love cars,” Hathaway said. “It’s pretty exciting that we’re actually going to be building a car, and it’s a huge resume builder. People get hired on the spot when they see we have experience outside the classroom like this.” 

This is also a brand new experience for UNF students altogether.

When Tussey transferred from UCF, he was disappointed the society didn’t have a chapter in Jacksonville. He always hoped he would have an opportunity to build a race car, and now that hope is turning into a reality.

“I’m amazed we’re building a race car,” Cerreta said. “No one at UNF has ever done this before.”