Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday's Events

Friday was a hot smoggy day here in Fontana. The hard work from Thursday's events paid off as the team is one of three finalist for Design. Other static events scores include 6th in Presentation and 21st in the Cost/Manufacturing event. The dynamic events all earned top 15 placement with an Acceleration placement of 11, Skip pad placement of 14th, and an Autocross place of 8th setting us in the fast heat for endurance at 9 am Pacific time. The team is excited for Saturday's line up of endurance, design finals, and awards. That's all from California, pictures of the events are coming soon.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Race for Kristin's wish!

Just a reminder that tomorrow, Saturday, June 28, 2008 is the last Endurance race of the 2008 season, and therefore will be the conclusion of our 2008 Race for a Cause campaign for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan.

But there is still time for you to pledge to help our wish kid, Kristin, fulfill her dream of being a zoo keeper for a day! We'll be accepting pledges through 11:59 PM Pacific time tomorrow (Sat, June 28, 2008).

To make help make this wish possible, just visit the Pledge Page on and make a pledge. You can choose to contribute either by lump sum or on a per-lap basis. 100% of all donations go directly to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan.

If you have any questions at all, please email me at or post up a comment here; team members check the blog several times throughout the day.

Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


Static Events

Today was the first day of static events at Formula SAE West. As we don't have scores in yet, I can't comment for sure on our standing thus far in the competition. However, I will tell you that I saw all three events today: Presentation, Cost/Manufacturing and Design, and felt that they went very well. In fact, Design preliminaries went so well that we were asked back for semi-finals.

Additionally, we completed the final three steps in Scrutineering: passing the Braking, Noise and Tilt tests. Suspension Team Leader Jordan Smart completed the sufficient braking lock-up on his second try, and Car 51 blew 108 decibels (maximum allowable emitted sound is 110 db) in the noise test, thereby allowing us to obtain the other two parts to our three-part inspection sticker.

Tomorrow is the day of the first three dynamic events, or events where the car is in motion. These include Acceleration, Skidpad and Autocross. As Formula SAE is really an educational competition that tests participants and the vehicles that they've brought, each dynamic event poses a different test and reason for running in it.

Skidpad, consisting of a large figure-8 course, is designed to test each cars' lateral acceleration. The easiest way to think of this is that it tests how fast each car can travel around a corner.

Acceleration, consisting of a 75 meter inline sprint, is essentially a drag race that is meant to test each vehicle's inline acceleration from rest.

Autocross. Formula SAE cars are designed and built primarily for autocross courses; road-style race courses that feature short straightaways and very tight corners. The spirit behind FSAE has always been to create vehicles to own for an affordable racing endeavor; something the weekend 'enthusiast' can go out and use without breaking the bank. The most affordable type of road racing is, by a vast majority, autocrossing.

It's quite late, so that's about it for now. Below are some pictures from today. Enjoy!

Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


Getting set up for Cost/Manufacturing

Scott Williams reviews the Braking system design with a judge in Design Preliminaries

Powertrain Mechanical Team Leader Andy Gryczan discusses his system with a judge, also in Preliminaries.

Car on stands in Design Semi-finals

2009 Powertrain Intake/Exhaust Team Leader Drew Darling explains the innovations to Car 51's driveline system to design judge Chris Weismann

Discussing Car 51's dual-radiator cooling system

Powertrain evaluation (Andy Gryczan, design judge)

Car 51's nose. A special thanks to Lindsay Exhibit Group of Whitmore Lake, MI, and to owner Scott Lindsay for kindly sponsoring us with the grey pop-up display wall that you see here for this competition. Also, many thanks to Foto 1 Imaging for their work in printing our display boards, especially in such a timely fashion. The combination have worked perfectly for static events thus far.

Happily watching Design Semis

Semi trailer in the evening California sun

Leaving the race track

Dinner with the team from Clemson and our friend Miki from TU Delft

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Website problems


Late last night, we realized that our main website ( and the Race for a Cause website ( were down. We are happy to report that both are back up and running, thanks to Fred Hall from the MSU Division of Engineering Computing Services.

We apologize for any inconvenience that this caused, especially if you were trying to access the Race for a Cause homepage to pledge for Make-A-Wish. If you would like to make a pledge to help Kristin, our wish kid, you still can (until Saturday morning) on the Pledge Page at

Currently, the weather in Fontana is hanging pleasantly in the low 70's and very smoggy. We have Cost/Manufacturing in 40 minutes, and the team is busy prepping for the other events today.



Good evening from California! Today marked the first day of the 2008 Formula SAE West competition; being held at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.

Arriving at the track this morning at 7 am, we spent the morning completing on-site registration and then began to unpack the semi trailer. The first, and only event of the day: Scrutineering, didn't open until 4 pm, and thankfully for driver Brandon Goad's quick response this morning, we reserved the 8th spot in line (out of 55 teams currently present at the venue).

Thanks to the streamlined processes of online SAE registration, and Steve Daum, Kaley Zundel and the rest of the on-site SAE staff, the paperwork that we had to complete in the morning was minimal and went quickly.

Following a quick registration, we spent our time preparing Car 51 (for FSAE West, the number on her is 10) for scrutineering, as well as prepping for some additional static events tomorrow.

Scrutineering was virtually painless, with the technical inspectors leaving us with only three very small fixes to complete on Car 51: some additional padding around the driver's compartment, a few more tabs to support the seat pan, and a small modification to increase the radius of Car 51's nose. We have already completed the last request, and expect to have the other two finished by the start of our first static event tomorrow at 9:30 AM PST.

Speaking of tomorrow...the events for tomorrow include all "static" events, or events where the car is not in motion. These include Design, Presentation and Cost/Manufacturing. I elaborated a bit about Design in an earlier blog post, so I won't go into it again.

The Presentation event helps participants learn the intricacies of product and vehicle marketing. Essentially, the event requires that each team research, build and prepare a presentation or 'pitch' for selling their vehicle in a unit-volume run of 1200 per year. Over the past few years, MSU has been lucky to have team members who are quite good at this event, winning it at Formula SAE Michigan in 2004, and placing 2nd at both in 2006 and 2007 Formula SAE West competitions. I 'pitched' our plans in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 at MIS, so I would really like to win one of these things before fully handing over the rheins to Ankit Mathur.

The final static event, and our first of tomorrow, is Cost/Manufacturing. In this event, we will be asked to present our research on the manufacturing processes of two randomly-chosen components (from a list of eight). Additionally, we will introduce our understanding of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFM and DFA), and how they apply to this particular product in small-volume production. This event is especially fun, as it allows first-year team members to get involved in presenting at competition.

Well, that's about all for now, folks. I'll post up some updates tomorrow as events are completed. On behalf of all of the 2008 team and our faculty advisor Gary Cloud, who recently joined us tonight, we hope that you enjoy the pictures from today's events.

Talk with you tomorrow. Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


Welcome to the paddocks.

Entire paddock area at Auto Club Speedway

Our paddock

2009 Chief Engineer Andy Rogers performing a few final checks before heading to Scrutineering

Waiting in line for Scrutineering. Car 51 drew quite a crowd wherever we took her.

Judges checked Car 51 thoroughly

Powertrain Mechanical and Driving Team Leader Andy Gryczan discusses the inspection with one of the technical scrutineers.

A series of three: Andy practices egress of the racecar. Formula SAE rules require that all drivers must do it in 5 seconds or less.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We're here!

Just a quick update - as it is very late and we have to be up in just a few hours. I am happy to say that all team members arrived safely in Ontario, California today. We didn't experience any delays at LAX and coordinating the arrival of the semi with driver Darick Clemons of ATR was a breeze. Many thanks to Darick - he did a fantastic job of getting our things safely to California backing the trailer into the lot next to our hotel.

We leave for Auto Club Speedway tomorrow morning at 7:00 am, where we'll spend the day registering, unpacking and going through scrutineering. Check back tomorrow evening for updates!

Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


Goodbye Detroit!

Somewhere out west

Arriving in Los Angeles

Our semi resting for the night. Don't the graphics look great? There is someone that we owe a huge thank you to making them possible - Brian Hodges, father of 2009 Powertrain Electrical Team Leader Leslie Hodges, and diligent employee at Safety Technology International. Not only are the majority of the graphics courtesy of STI, but Brian took an entire day out of his personal schedule to come up and help us put them on. Additional accolades go to Dustin of Ace Graphics & Signs for his quick work to get a couple of logos that we messed up printed before we left for California. A HUGE thank you to both Brian and Dustin - we couldn't have done this with out you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Final competition preparation steps

This past weekend involved both work and play for team members. For the bulk of the day on Saturday, team alumni and current Pratt & Miller Engineering engineers John Lankes, Paul Strefling and Ben LeVesque returned to the shop to go over a mock Design event with FSAE West Competition Team members.

The Design event, often referred to as just 'Design,' is one of the most prestigious events within each Formula SAE competition, at least for our team. It is this event where SAE procures the best industry professionals - from a variety of backgrounds encompassing both the production and motorsport arenas - to test, or "grill" each team about their design philosophy, how their objectives relate to the overall goals of the car, what steps they took to get to the final product (the race car) and each designer's understanding of fundamental principles of the design of each system. There are three rounds of elimination for Design, each of which poses more difficult, in-depth questions to each Team Leader. In total, the event allows teams to earn up to 15% of the total amount of points in each competition.

Due to the long amount of time that MSU Team Leaders devote to the design, analysis, manufacturing and validation of every system on each car, this event means a lot to us. Of course, we like doing well because of the additional points that can be gathered, but there is something special about placing high in Design that doesn't exist in the other two static events. Last year, Car 9 placed 3rd in Design at Formula SAE West - our team's highest finish ever, and also our first time in the final round of the event. It was quite an honor to make it that far and to discuss your philosophies and thought processes with world-renowned experts, while nearly 80 of your fellow competing teams looked on. We hope to be there again this week - and this is why Saturday's mock session was welcomed by team members. Thank you to Paul, John and Ben for driving up to help out!

Sunday was a reward for everyone's hard work all year long. When building one of these race cars, under a very tight time schedule with a group of volunteers, things can get pretty...well, let's just say 'crazy,' at times. Emotions tend to peak remarkably well at 4 am during your fifth consecutive all-nighter, and so taking breaks outside of the shop to build camaraderie amongst team members is very important to keeping everyone happy throughout the good, the bad, and the very stressful times.

So, as we're going into one of the most stressful times of year - a competition week - we took the time to have a relaxing day away for team members; spending the day at my parent's cottage on Portage Lake in Pinckney, Michigan; jet skiing, boating and discussing everything except for Formula. It was a much needed and very helpful hiatus before our exciting week of little sleep, lots of sun, and copious amounts of water in Fontana.

The first wave of people leave Detroit-Metro airport in 14 hours, so my next update will hopefully include a safe arrival of all team members, race car and trailer in the greater Los Angeles area.

Until then, here are some pictures from the weekend, we hope that you enjoy them.

Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


2009 Chief Engineer Andy Rogers and current Suspension Team Leader Jordan Smart review Chassis design with team alum. John Lankes and Paul Strefling

Jordan fields a vehicle dynamics question from John

Some of Sunday's crew on the sea wall (LtoR): Former Project Manager Jon Luckhardt, Body Team Leader Jim Guitar, 2009 Powertrain Intake/Exhaust Team Leader Drew Darling, Rachel Hall, 2009 Powertrain Cooling-Oiling Team Leader Marcus McDuffie, Corrie Zitkus, Suspension Team Leader Jordan Smart, Andy Rogers, and current Chief Engineer Josh Heyden.


Friday, June 20, 2008

We're off!

Team members have spent the last three days driving to the shop after work to load the semi for the trip to CA, and at just past noon today, we bid farewell to Car 51...and nearly everything not bolted down in the workshop.

We would like to extend a very special thank you to David Menke, President of America's Transportation Resources, who was gracious enough to supply us with one of his drivers, Darick Clemons, to pilot our tractor trailer out west. We wish Darick the best of luck on his trip and look forward to re-uniting with him and Car 51 in a few days. Drive safe - You have the four-wheel reason that we don't have good grades or social lives resting inside!

Team members will fly out to Los Angeles next Tuesday, as Formula SAE West scrutineering beings first thing in the morning on Wednesday.

Don't forget - it's not too late to still make a pledge to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan through our Race for a Cause program. As Driving Team Leader Andy Gryczan and Brandon Goad gracefully pilot Car 51 around the Endurance track at Auto Club Speedway next Saturday, all of your pledges will add up to helping to make a wish come true for Kristin, the very special beneficiary of our 2008 Race for a Cause/Make-A-Wish campaign. It is her love of animals that you are supporting - and her dream to work with them by being a zoo keeper for a day. On behalf of all of the members of the 2008 Formula Racing Team, we wish Kristin the absolute best on her special day!

All that you have to do to help make Kristin's dream come true is to visit the Pledge Page on 100% of your contributions go directly to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan.

Please remember to check back often on the blog as we approach the start of FSAE West; we look forward to sharing updates with you as often as possible.

Go Green. Go White. Go Fast!


Team Member Rachel Hall is the main reason that there are so many logos all over the semi - she organized the entire operation

Car 51 leaves the shop

Thank you David & ATR - we are truly indebted!

And thank you to all of Car 51's partners - especially our Platinum Sponsors: GM, The North American International Auto Show LLC, The Center for Automotive Research, Demmer Corporation, The George P. Johnson Company, and last, but very not least, our beloved College of Engineering!

Enroute to California.

One last thank you - this one goes to Andy Powers and Brian Barnum of the MSU Service garage for their work to get the semi trailer DOT certified thoroughly and quickly.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On-campus testing session, our final one before FSAE West!

Last Saturday, team members spent the day at Lot 89 on the MSU campus performing a final testing session with Car 51 before it leaves in the semi on Thursday. The main purposes of the day were to try to reduce a bit of oversteer that was detected by driver Brandon Goad last weekend, and to allow Driving Team Leader Andy Gryczan some much needed seat time in the race car.

The weather of the day was beautiful, albeit a bit cooler than the temperatures we should see out West in the next two weeks. Nevertheless, it was a good, solid day of driving for Andy.

Sunday was met with cooler temperatures - perfect for standing outside watching the car, but not as beneficial for obtaining accurate simulation of racing in the warmer Los Angeles-area climate. Although we were disappointed that last-minute transportation issues prevented us from bringing a car to Eyes on Design, we were able to make use of our last day on campus by practicing some Acceleration and Skidpad runs with drivers Scott Williams and Jordan Smart.

As I write this, team members are packing it in for the night - after spending the evening performing final maintenance procedures on Car 51. We'll spend the next two days cleaning the race car and packing the semi for it's journey west.

Here are a few pictures from Saturday to tie you over until our next update. A special thank you to the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety for blocking the lot off for us - it was a huge help.

Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


Driving & Powertrain-Mechanical Team Leader Andy Gryczan navigating the North-central portion of Lot 89

Coming into the front straight away

At speed

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This past weekend

Team members spent last Saturday and Sunday testing Car 51 at a couple of places off campus, thanks to two great sponsors: Goodyear Tire & Rubber and Robert Bosch Corporation. Thank you to both of you for loaning us your time, facilities and personnel - we can't say enough how valuable they are to us prepare.

Saturday, June 7: Robert Bosch Corporation Proving Grounds, Flat Rock, Michigan

Thanks to an invitation by team alum Nick LaPlaca and Jon Denton and through the generosity of Paul Bacon and Gary Champine of Robert Bosch Corporation, we were able to utilize Bosch's fantastic surface at their Flat Rock facility to shake down Car 51 on Saturday. Eager to ensure that we have enough seat time for every driver, Driving Team Leader Andy Gryczan put Skidpad and Acceleration drivers Scott Williams and Jordan Smart in the race car for the duration of the day.

We are happy to report that Car 51 ran very reliably and each driver got some driving time. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and we had sunny and dry conditions, just as we expect to see in Fontana in the next couple of weeks. The track surface temperature was a little lower than is expected in California, and the wind a bit greater than we've experienced in the past, but never the less, the testing couldn't have been much more ideal.

Thanks again to everyone at Bosch for making this possible for us! Here are some pictures and a couple of short videos from the day.

Lifting the car onto stands

Acceleration & Skidpad Driver Scott Williams

2009 Chief Engineer Andy Rogers performs a pre-race fastener check

Driving & Powertrain-Mechanical Team Leader Andy Gryczan inspects the cooling system before the car heads to the track

TEAMWORK: Checking tire temperatures after a run (LtoR: Jordan Smart, Marcus McDuffie, Hillary Gregory, Marshall Mendoza, Andy Gryczan, Jon Denton)

Scott Williams launches for the start of a Skidpad run

Ready, Set, Go!

Team alumnus & Bosch engineer Jon Denton assists Andy Gryczan with some traction control tuning

Heading down the backside of the Acceleration strip

Sunday, June 8: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Proving Grounds, Akron, Ohio

Sunday began with a very early drive from the shop in Okemos to Akron, Ohio for a fun-filled day of testing at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s test track. Upon arriving, we were greeted by Dan Alford, our Goodyear rep. for the day. Additionally, the University of Cincinnati, one of our FSAE competitors for the upcoming Formula SAE West event, was there shaking down their car.

The day at Goodyear was probably the most realistic simulation yet that we’ve experienced of the weather that we’re sure to see in California in a few weeks. It was nearly 90 degrees F outside, we experienced a moderate wind and the track temperature was 110 degrees F. This really helped us to get an accurate idea of how the race car’s cooling system will handle the hotter CA temperatures. This system is tested to its limits during the Endurance event in Fontana, as the cars really do take a beating when run that hard and long in the hot weather.

I’d like to tell you that Car 51 ran cool all day – but it didn’t, so we have spent the last few days working out the problems and figuring out a solution – which we think we now have. To aid keeping air entering the side pods from becoming stagnant before reaching the radiators, we are building a set of carbon fiber ducts that will run directly from the side pod opening to the front face of each radiator. Additionally, we are increasing the size of the lines in the cooling system and possibly going to larger oil cooler to ensure cool oil temperatures as well. We’ll get a chance to test these tools this Saturday, when we head back to Akron.

One thing that is absolutely essential to doing well at competition is having talented drivers that are well-acclimated with the car that they’ll be piloting. So, in addition to gathering data for the last several weeks, we have been getting all four of our FSAE West drivers; Andy Gryczan, Brandon Goad, Jordan Smart and Scott Williams, as much seat-time as possible. Brandon, our lead driver last year, and Andy, our Driving Team Leader, will pilot Car 51 for the Autocross and Endurance events in Fontana, as they are our quickest drivers and these two events are worth the greatest number of points at a Formula SAE competition. Jordan Smart and Scott Williams will handle driving duties on the remaining two events: Acceleration and Skidpad. For those of you who tuned in to Car 9’s blog last year, you may remember that MSU set a competition record at Formula SAE West 2007 when we won the Acceleration event with a time of 3.894 seconds. Unfortunately, Ben LeVesque, who drove that winning run, has graduated and moved on to bigger and better things at Pratt & Miller Engineering. Judging by the times we’ve seen thus far, and the set-up we plan on running with Car 51 at competition, it may be possible for Jordan and/or Scott to pull off another win, and hopefully, another record. However, there is always a bit of luck involved in racing, so we wish them the best!

As Brandon has limited times when he can drive the car, and has such a vital role in our placement during those two pivotal dynamic events in Fontana, he received the most seat-time of the weekend; driving all day on Sunday. We are happy to report that he ran 56 second lap-times during the course of the day – just where the top Goodyear-sponsored teams from the Formula SAE MIS competition were running. Below are some pictures of him piloting Car 51 around Goodyear’s great facility. Thanks Goodyear!

Until next weekend, Go Green. Go White. Go Fast.


Brandon Goad mentally prepares for the course

Heading down the front straight

I actually can't remember where this was on the track.

We switched directions and ran the course backwards with Cincinnati

Our cohorts from southern Ohio: The University of Cincinnati

Sideview of Cincinnati

And this is why we call him "The Goad Show": Brandon easily controls Car 51 through a slippery corner exit

Going over the final times of the day

Tired, hot, sunburned...and still excited. It was a wonderful weekend.