Dartmouth Formula Racing gears up for competition

by Gigi Grigorian | 4/24/18 2:35am

Next week, the Dartmouth Formula Racing team will compete in an annual Formula Hybrid competition in Louden at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway against U.S. and international universities.

The Formula Hybrid competition was founded in 2006 by the Thayer School of Engineering as a part of the Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series, and continues to be operated by Thayer today. At the competition each spring, each team’s racecar must pass both a mechanical and an electrical inspection before it can compete, DFR’s team management captain Leina McDermott ’19 said. After passing inspection, teams compete in both static and dynamic events. For the static portion of the competition, teams are assessed based on their design and presentation. For the dynamic events, racecars compete in acceleration, autocross and endurance assessments.

According to DFR project management captain Alex Newman ’19, DFR members design and build a Formula-style racecar with an open wheel and open cockpit design to be raced against other teams’ cars each year. The Formula Hybrid competition differs from the standard SAE International racecar competition because teams have to create a gasoline-electric hybrid instead of a purely gasoline-powered vehicle.

“What makes formula hybrid special is that you not only have the engine and the typical vehicle dynamics that you’d have on an FSAE team, but you also have the added challenge of the high voltage system that has to be safe and professionally wired,” Newman said.

In preparation for the annual competition, DFR members begin designing a new racecar each fall, McDermott said.

After designing the car, DFR members usually begin the fabrication stage during the winter. While building their car, Newman explained that DFR members “learn a lot of practical skills that you might not in engineering classes until way down the line.”

Every year, DFR members consider the previous year’s racecar and assess which aspects to keep for their future design.

For the 2015 competition, DFR’s electrical oversight captain Erik Loscalzo ’18 said the team mostly used a modified version of the previous year’s car, undergoing a rebuilding period after a significant portion of the team graduated the year before. In 2016, according to Newman, DFR’s racecar did not pass the initial inspection. Last year, the car passed the inspection and did well in the design event, but broke down during the endurance event and was unable to complete it, Newman said.

Despite the challenges that DFR faced in the past few years, Newman remains optimistic about this year’s competition.

“We kept a lot of the things that made last year’s car strong and then fixed the things that were struggling,” he explained. “I think we’re in a pretty good place.”

Loscalzo, who is nearing the end of his fourth year on the team, also feels confident about the upcoming competition after Saturday’s test run at the Lebanon airport.

“The car went really well,” Loscalzo said. “We’re going to be set in a week.

McDermott said that she believes the freedom for students to independently build a project of their own design is one of DFR’s biggest appeals.

“There’s not another thing you can do [at Thayer] that gives you the same experience,” she said. “This is the most free-thinking engineering outlet you can have here.”

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