Student engineers test cars at Barber Motorsports Park

Engineering students from Vanderbilt and five other universities ventured onto the pavement at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., on a chilly Saturday to test the designs of their formula-styled race cars.

The engineering students – who say they spend more time than college athletes preparing for competition – agreed it was rewarding.

“These competitions give engineering students a chance to get their hands dirty, and apply what we learn in the classroom,” said Vanderbilt senior Cody Mayer, president of the Vanderbilt Motorsports club.

Formula SAE is an intercollegiate competition. Students design, build, and race a formula-style open-wheel racecar to rigorous specifications within a tight timeline. The formula, created by the Society of Automotive Engineers, specifies that a new frame be constructed each year to promote design changes in every aspect of the vehicle.

“Because Vanderbilt Motorsports simulates an engineering company, we teach students how things are designed and manufactured in the real world.  When this is combined with the theory we learn in the classroom, the program produces engineers that are one step ahead of the rest when they graduate,” Mayer said.

Saturday’s competition, sponsored by Barber and Red Bull, was organized by Auburn University’s War Eagle Motorsports.

From 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. they practiced the events they will face in national competition in Michigan in May, including acceleration, skid pad, autocross and endurance.

The universities competing are Auburn University, the University of Alabama, the University of Maryland, Mississippi State University, Southern Polytechnic University and Vanderbilt University.

In addition to Mayer, nine other Vanderbilt engineering students traveled Jan. 24 to Leeds: Daniel Weinstein, Greg Greenwald, Justin Schnieder, Trevor Bruns, Kyle Cappello, Richard Gronberg, Jordan Croom, Scott Nill and Xavier Waller. Advisor Phil Davis accompanied the group.

Peter Jones, an Auburn professor, a faculty advisor for War Eagle Motorsports and the organizer of the Formula SAE event at Barber, says it is much more about education than racing.

“What we’re teaching them is to use their enthusiasm to learn something, and that transfers into anything,” he said.