Motorsports Student Project Teams Gear Up for Upcoming Competitions

Posted: March 25, 2019

Students at CAR are doing new and exciting things this year in each Motorsports Student Project. Every team aims to engineer the most competitive vehicle, and they have different objectives to achieve that goal. This year, many teams improved their vehicles by applying computer-aided design and simulation, reducing weight, enhancing reliability and optimizing each component. 

Supermileage Makes Super Enhancements

Ohio State Supermileage is taking a whole new direction with its vehicle. Last year, the team achieved 265 mpg; this year, simulations suggest the new vehicle will achieve an mpg in the mid-3,000s.  

The biggest change is in the vehicle’s powertrain. Instead of using the engine to power the rear wheel, the engine powers a 3-phase generator that runs an electric motor. This allows the engine to stay in the optimum operating speed while the electric motor changes speed, dramatically increasing the efficiency.

Additionally, almost all the engine’s components have been reworked. The team machined all the motor’s parts besides the block, crankcase and crankshaft. They also reduced the displacement and implemented electronic fuel injection.

Other changes were made to the vehicle’s exterior. The team crafted a lightweight, rigid and aerodynamic carbon-fiber canopy that cocoons the driver. At the front and the back of the vehicle, the team redesigned the bodywork using fabric stretched over a wooden frame. The team also plans to steer itself to victory with its new lightweight cable steering system.

“I’m pretty stoked to see this thing rolling and all the systems working together,” team captain Thomas Clifford said. “It will be great to see the net impact that all these changes have had on the vehicle.”

The competition will be hosted at the Eaton Proving Grounds in Marshall, Michigan on June 6 and 7.

EcoCAR Explores Autonomous Tech

After four consecutive wins in the previous EcoCAR 3 competition, Ohio State EcoCAR hopes to build upon its success in the latest Advanced Vehicle Technology Competition: the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. The team will compete against 11 other universities to re-engineer a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.

Although the competition’s focus is still on fuel efficiency, the latest iteration of the competition incorporates connected and autonomous technology. Ohio State EcoCAR is excited to explore these new areas.

The team is in the planning phase—none of the universities have a vehicle yet, so students spend most of the semiweekly meetings applying computer-aided design and running simulations. The team will be ready to hit the ground running once the Blazer arrives.

In the meantime, the team is also conducting outreach events at multiple Columbus-area middle and high schools to spread awareness about the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge and STEM.

“Passing knowledge is easy, but passing interest is hard,” Phillip Dalke, the team's propulsion systems integration leader, said. “That's what we're trying to do here—spark the next generation’s passion for STEM.”

This year’s competition is in Atlanta, Georgia from May 18 to May 24.

Underwater Robotics Reimagines Their Robot

Underwater Robotics
Ever since the Underwater Robotics team started competing in 2010, they’ve taken an iterative design approach. This year is different.

The team is making substantial changes to four of the robot’s areas: its chassis, its electronics, its acoustics system and its manipulator system.

Last year’s chassis featured a tubular shape and was made from sheet metal, which no team had ever done before. Ohio State’s Underwater Robotics team won points for uniqueness and craftsmanship, but the shape made it difficult for students to maintain the robot. This year, the team is designing a chassis that solves this problem.

The students are completely reworking the robot’s custom electronics to make it more reliable and easier to use. Students are also revising the robot’s acoustics system; it can detect and navigate the robot to audible targets called “pings.”

The final significant change to the robot is in its manipulator system. The team is removing its high-maintenance, air-powered manipulator system and replacing it with an electromechanical system. Now, instead of replacing air canisters to power the grabber, torpedo launcher and marker dropper, the team will only have to recharge a few batteries.

“Last year, we did the best we had ever done before,” Benji Justice, the president of Ohio State Underwater Robotics, said. “This year, based on the changes to the tasks in the competition, we’ll do an even better job. Our team has had a lot of growth, and I think we’re set up to get into the finals this year.”

This year’s competition takes place in San Diego from July 29 through Aug. 4.

Formula Buckeyes Races to Finish Their Vehicle

Formula Buckeyes
The Formula Buckeyes team runs on a tight schedule. Last year, their vehicle drove for the first time just two weeks before competition. This year, the team used simulations to tweak the design and speed up the manufacturing process.

The car’s chassis features a carbon fiber tub and tubular rear, which reduces weight by 15 pounds and allows for easier access to the engine. Other changes include improvements to the vehicle’s dampers and aerodynamics. The team also 3-D printed custom titanium wheel hubs and aluminum steering components.

The first competition for 2019 takes place at the Michigan International Speedway from May 8 to May 11, and the second competition is in Barry, Ontario from May 30 to June 3.

Baja Buckeyes Bound for Success

Baja Buckeyes
Baja Buckeyes engineered its lightest vehicle ever this year. To achieve this, the team used finite element analysis software to understand where they could optimize the vehicle’s structure. They also lightened critical vehicle components like the trailing arms, gearbox and driveshaft.

In addition to the vehicle’s weight reduction, the team refined the steering geometry and suspension kinematics to improve its cornering stability.

“I’m excited to see where all the weight savings takes us, and I want to see whatever we can improve,” Benjamin Moninger, the team’s frame and suspension design lead, said. “I even want to see some failures; then we can correct them to make some of the best components possible.”

The first competition is on April 11 at Tennessee Tech University, and the second is at Rochester Institute of Technology on June 3.

Buckeye Current Crafts a Custom Frame

Buckeye Current
For the first time in the Buckeye Current’s history, the team is designing a custom frame for their bike. This allows the team to optimize their available packaging volume—in other words, there will be more room for the powertrain, batteries and suspension components.

The new bike will feature a new powertrain and battery pack. Buckeye Current used a team-developed simulation tool to choose the highest-performing powertrain, and they are focusing on improving the battery pack to hold as much energy possible in the smallest space available.

The new powertrain and battery design also call for a new cooling system. The team is working hard to avoid previous thermal limitations; improved aerodynamics will maximize heat rejection and minimize drag.

Buckeye Current will compete with its brand-new bike in the Isle of Man TT Zero race in June 2020.

Written by Jake Berg, CAR Writing Intern