LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Engineering Formula racecar team is putting the finishing touches on two vehicles and setting lofty goals for this year’s international competitions. Members of Jayhawk Motorsports hope to duplicate the success of the 2012 team – the first in school history to earn a first place overall finish at a Formula SAE competition.
“We know we have really high expectations coming in (following the team’s wins at Formula SAE Lincoln and the Formula Hybrid electric vehicle competition last year), but we’ll be able to rise to the challenge,” said Hans Walther, mechanical engineering senior and Jayhawk Motorsports team leader from Olathe.
The team plans to publicly showcase both 2013 cars for the first time at an unveiling ceremony from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St., in downtown Lawrence. Tickets are $6 and include food and drink. Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.
Thirty-six seniors from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and computer engineering make up this year’s Jayhawk Motorsports team and have spent the past year designing, then building these specialized vehicles in their capstone design course. Another 10 to 15 people, primarily underclass students from a variety of majors – including a few non-engineers – also lend a hand throughout the year to create the cars.
This marks the second year the Jayhawk Motorsports designed and built an electric vehicle and an internal combustion engine vehicle for separate competitions, but it’s the first time team members worked on both cars simultaneously.
“The hope is to try to lighten the load just a little. We’re able to use some of the same elements for both cars – the chassis design, the vehicle suspension – so every person on the team can make two of everything. The cars are identical and interchangeable with the exception of the powertrain,” Walther said.
First up for Jayhawk Motorsports is Formula SAE Michigan, a combustion engine competition set for May 8-11 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. The prestigious event plays host to 120 universities from around the world. Teams are judged not only on their vehicle’s design, but also on their car’s performance in a variety of racing events and the team’s ability to “sell” the virtues of the finished product. Walther hopes to have the car completed with enough time to do plenty of testing to work out any bugs before the car hits the competition track.
“Michigan is typically the toughest competition for us. We’re usually working right up to deadline and have less time to deal with glitches that come up. That’s why it’s so important to get the car done in plenty of time,” Walther said. “If we do that, we’re confident we’ll have a great showing. Our goal is a top-five finish.”
From there, the focus shifts to the site of KU’s greatest success in 2012, Formula SAE Lincoln, set for June 19-22 in Lincoln, Neb. KU plans to race its electric vehicle at the first sanctioned event of its kind in the United States, the Formula SAE Electric. Twenty teams are registered for the competition. KU earned several awards last year at a similar hybrid vehicle competition, including awards for Excellence in Electric Vehicle Engineering and Engineering the Future. Walther said that experience is important heading into this year’s contest.
“There are several veteran teams from Europe that will be there. The U.S. teams are kind of the rookies, so it’ll be interesting to see how things go,” Walther said.
Jayhawk Motorsports’ combustion engine vehicle is currently on the waitlist to enter the 80-team field at Formula SAE Lincoln.
Later this summer, the team plans to take its efforts global. For the first time, Jayhawk Motorsports plans to travel overseas to compete. The team is finalizing details on attending the Formula Student Austria combustion engine competition Aug. 26-29 in Spielberg, Austria.
“It’s an awesome new opportunity. We’ve started the fundraising process, and it should be a great learning experience,” Walther said.
The team works each year with a variety of companies and individuals to obtain sponsorships in the form of money, parts, materials and services.
“This is a huge financial endeavor, and we couldn't do it without their generous support,” Walther said.