Project Director Guides Formula Buckeyes Through Difficult Times

Posted: February 16, 2021
Jakob Madgar
Jakob Madgar

Running a team can be difficult during the best of times, and the middle of a pandemic is about as far from the best of times as you can get.  Despite this, Jakob Madgar, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering, has lead his team through these difficulties and more during his three years as project director for the Formula Buckeyes SAE student motorsports team.

Formula Buckeyes are a motorsports student project involved in Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), a series of competitions in which teams of college students work together to design and build a race car, then pit that car against those of other teams at yearly competitions.  The competitions test not just the car’s speed and racing ability, but also the design philosophy behind the car and even the cost of building it, so it’s more of an engineering competition than a race.  Like most student organizations, the Formula Buckeyes have been hit hard by the struggles caused by COVID-19.  Madgar said the team was looking forward to having an exceptional amount of time for testing the car last year, only for the competitions to be completely cancelled, rendering the team’s efforts useless.

However, Formula Buckeyes took these difficulties in stride, and with the help of Madgar’s leadership have used this as an opportunity for improvement.  While big team meetings have been impossible this past semester, Madgar and the other team leaders pushed for the creation of a Formula Buckeyes Carmen page, which is being used to keep track of technical documents, share knowledge, and more, which helps to both keep current club members engaged and create an easy-to-access record for the future.

The team has also used this interruption of their usual methods to create a very competitive car that Madgar is confident will do well in competitions, redesigning the car to work better with more current technology.

Beyond COVID, Madgar has also done a lot to change the culture of the Formula Buckeyes team for the better.  According to Jeff Chrstos, advisor for the Formula Buckeyes, the team has had a past history of pushing students to spend incredibly long hours working at the shop, even at the expense of their grades.

“Formula was the worst about this- if you weren’t ruining your life you weren’t dedicated enough,” Chrstos said.

But Madgar has guided the club towards a new way of working, according to Chrstos.  With the ‘old guard’ mostly having graduated when he stepped up as director, he’s been able to encourage the club to establish a better work-life balance, which has been reflected in higher member retention rates.

“I think one thing that Jakob has done in his time as the team leader is change that culture a little bit, and the team does talk to its members about making sure that they keep their grades up,” Chrstos said.

Madgar joined Formula Buckeyes his freshman year after seeing them at the involvement fair.  He’s always liked cars, with an interest in them being his reason for majoring in mechanical engineering, so Formula Buckeyes lined up well with his interests.

As part of the suspension team, Madgar learned the ins and outs of manufacturing, as is typical with new members.  But at the end of his first year, most of the ‘old guard’ that had formed the leadership team for the Formula Buckeyes graduated, leaving a large hole in the club that needed filling, so Madgar stepped into the role of Project Director his sophomore year, something that’s given him a great advantage.

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2020 Formula competition vehicle

“One thing that’s hard, especially for a volunteer organization, is creating much more of a structure, in terms of how things are done year to year.  So since I’ve been able to lead it for a couple years now, we’ve had a much more, I’d say, cohesive management structure that’s carried over from year to year.  And it gives some stability, I think, which allows younger people to do more things that they’re interested in, not have to take over too much responsibility,” Madgar said.

Of course, as a graduating senior, this year will be the end of Madgar’s time as Project Director, but it’s clear to see that he’s left the Formula Buckeyes better than when he found it.  As far as what Madgar plans to do after graduation, he’s hoping to stay in the automotive industry. “I do like the smaller team dynamics, so I am looking for smaller companies to go into, or smaller teams at least, out of college, and hopefully develop something through that,” Madgar said.

Written by Laura Smith, CAR writing intern

Category: Students