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Formula Buckeyes' journey to Germany: student-led team designs and builds vehicle, and competes in international competition

Throughout the summer the engineering Student Projects building, located on West Campus at Ohio State's Center for Automotive Research, was more abuzz than usual with wrenches, hammers and even the CNC machine. Armed with a new carbon fiber chassis and custom brake system, the student-led Formula Buckeyes SAE team finalized its vehicle for the international debut in Hockenheimring, Germany.

Jared Martin, 2011-12 Team Captain, described the vehicle build process as “a huge vehicle redesign, which began in June 2010 and continued through July 2012.” Actual construction of the vehicle began in October 2010. The build process included students machining body molds in-house on the CNC machine, which Martin said “opened lots of options.” Testing occurred at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio where the team practiced on a track setup similar to the German Formula 1 competition track.

A striking feature of the vehicle is its carbon fiber chassis. In lay terms, the semi-moncoque structure allows for all components—from tie rods to suspension mounts—to be bolted directly to the body. This design, created by mechanical engineering student Adam Wrobel, reduces weight and increases speed. “This is the best car the team has developed in the 10 years I have been associated with them," said George Staab, faculty advisor. "It incorporated many novel and unique features, such as metal matrix composite brake rotors and semi-monocoque carbon fiber front and rear tubs.”

Wondering what else is unique about Car #30? Check out the box to the right.

The Formula Buckeyes SAE team worked for two years to build a vehicle to compete in the international Formula SAE competition. Held in Germany August 2-5, 2012 teams were judged on cost analysis, engineering design, acceleration, autocross performance, wet skid pad performance and endurance. After working long nights, running meticulous tests and driving many laps around the Formula 1 track, the results ranked Ohio State 44th out of 77 overall. Judges included industry representatives, members of Formula 1 racing, original equipment manufacturer executives and a handful of American Formula SAE judges.

“They were competing against teams from all over the world, some of which are essentially Formula 1 minor league race teams with virtually unlimited budgets and sponsors who provide all of the materials and machining for their teams,” said Staab. “Our students had the advantage of having not only designed, but also actually machined a large number of their components. This was very useful as they assessed and fixed all of the problems that arose during the five days of competition.”

Engine team leader, Derek Riddle, third year mechanical engineering student, summed up the lessons learned from the competition. “Germany was a great experience and opportunity for the entire Formula Buckeyes team. In order to be the best, you have to compete against the best, and Formula Student Germany provided that platform for all of the best teams in the world. We learned a lot and got valuable feedback on our designs from both the judges and the other competitors. We have a solid foundation now, and we are looking forward to improving our car this school year with high expectations for the Michigan competition in May.”


Holly Henley, CAR marketing and communications,
Greg Massey, 2012-13 team captain,
Jim Shively, staff advisor,
George Staab, faculty advisor,
For more information:
Formula Student Germany: