Mechanical engineering major Erwin Fuentes, '17 works on the seat of the car in Moehler Laboratory on Saturday, Apr. 11, 2015. The Society of Automotive Engineers annually builds a car from scratch with the intention of competing against others in Michigan. (Toni Isreal/B&W photo)

Lehigh Formula SAE team builds racecar for Society of Automotive Engineers collegiate design competition

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Chemical engineering major Carolina O'Connor, '16, assists in the building of the car in Moehler Laboratory on Saturday, Apr. 11, 2015. The Society of Automotive Engineers annually builds a car from scratch with the intention of competing against others in Michigan. (Toni Isreal, B&W/ photo)

Chemical engineering major Carolina O’Connor, ’16, assists in the building of the car in Moehler Laboratory on Saturday, Apr. 11, 2015. The Society of Automotive Engineers annually builds a car from scratch with the intention of competing against others in Michigan. (Toni Isreal, B&W/ photo)

The Lehigh Formula Society of Automotive Engineers team will be competing in May to see how its style race vehicle compares to that of other universities.

Approximately 30 engineering and business students are a part of this undergraduate club, and have come together to make up the Lehigh Formula SAE team. According to the team’s website, every year it “designs, manufactures, and races a unique single seat racecar in the Society of Automotive Engineers collegiate design competition.”

The Society of Automotive Engineers hosts the annual competition where race vehicles compete on the basis of design and performance at the Michigan International Speedway. Designs from over 100 teams from colleges and universities worldwide are presented at the competition, and Lehigh’s team is hopeful that it will earn a top spot.

“We compete against teams that have more people and a larger budget than us, so we don’t necessarily go to win,” Andrew Papazian, ’15, said. “If we place within the top 30 of the 120 teams at the competition, we did really well for our financial level and team size.”

Papazian serves as the team captain and joined the club upon first entering Lehigh. He said that when he was walking around Packard Laboratory as a prospective student, he saw the race car that the Formula team built, and that made him decide that he wanted to come to Lehigh.

Noah Saltzman, ’17, also joined as a first-year student. He said he first discovered the club when he noticed a race car while walking around the club fair. He said many of the people in the club are interested in cars, so they get excited when they see a car and realize they are capable of building it.

As a club, the team primarily focuses on building its race car. It builds a new car from scratch every year, using only the same block parts, such as the engine and wheels, from previous years.

Matthew Levy, ’15, who serves as the business manager, said the team purchases seven main parts and then weld together the other pieces. He said since it is a design competition, one of the goals is to improve the model each year because if it is too similar to years past, the team doesn’t receive as many points.

The team attributes its success to the commitment of its members, adviser, suppliers and sponsors. Levy said the team has many big-name sponsors that aid it financially. He said many of the local suppliers offer the team discounts or even the actual supplies. He added that the suppliers are interesting in helping students succeed, and their service is more beneficial than them donating money.

Members said they feel the club provides them with learning outside of the classroom. Saltzman noted that it’s amazing to apply what he learns in class and translate it into something tangible. The team receives help from faculty, as well. Bill Maroun, the team’s faculty advisor, explains key concepts to members when they have questions.

“The faculty acknowledge that there is only so much you can learn during your undergraduate years and taking advantage of what the school has to offer is equally, if not more, important,” Levy said.

The team will be holding an unveiling of its racecar April 17 at America on Wheels Museum. Team members, sponsors and university staff will be attending. Levy said the unveiling will give sponsors the ability to see what their money went to, while allowing the members to meet the people who made the process possible. He said the team is looking forward to unveiling the final product.

“I’ve learned much more from building a car than I have in any of my classes,” Papazian said. “As team captain, I’ve learned a lot about project management and business, which has helped me build outside of my mechanical engineering major.”

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