Formula SAE team competes at Michigan International Speedway

The Formula SAE teams from WMU and the University of São Paolo in the lobby of WMU's Floyd Hall

WMU’s Formula SAE team recently returned from the SAE International Collegiate Design Series at Michigan International Speedway, where they competed with their new 2017 Bronco Racing vehicle against teams from all over the world.  Of the 120 teams at the event, WMU’s team placed 35th in acceleration and autocross, 50th in skidpad, 26th in cost, and 64th overall. The team’s overall ranking would have been higher had a chain not broken during the first few laps of the endurance portion of the competition.

This year’s preparation for competition had a twist. In a unique collaboration, WMU team members opened their doors to a Formula SAE team from Brazil, and together, they shared lab space and worked alongside each other readying their cars for competition.

Read on for a first-hand account of this special collaboration.

 By Ramin Mirshab, Senior, Mechanical Engineering, Formula SAE Engine Team Leader

Our visitors were from the the University of São Paolo and were representing the “Esola de Engenharia de São Carlos.” They were ranked number 12 in the world, which is higher than any team is ranked in the entire Midwest. They mainly compete in the Formula SAE Brazil competition, where every year the number one winner of that competition goes on to compete at FSAE Michigan, which is the largest FSAE event in the world.

The way that we got to host them is after one of their members made a post in the “Formula SAE World” Facebook group stating that they were coming to the US and looking for a place to stay. I talked about the opportunity with Evan Weese, project manager for our team, and we thought it would be great to open our doors to them since the University embraces cultural diversity and we thought it would be a unique experience. After getting the necessary approvals, we went ahead and invited them here.

All 20 of their team members showed up May 4. Coincidentally, their car had arrived in a giant crate that same day at the paper plant at Parkview. We moved the vehicle to the projects lab where we spent the next two weeks working side by side before competition.

The experience was absolutely amazing. We got to see how a well-refined team operates and were able to form a bond with every one of them. The atmosphere was positive and friendly and gave us further motivation to finish our car for the competition at MIS. While they were here, we spent about 95 percent of the time on the cars and 5 percent of the time showing them places and things that they might not have in Brazil. Their favorites included Bell’s Two Hearted beer, after we went downtown to the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange together, Harbor Freight and Gale’s True Value Hardware. They did have a car while they were here and made some discoveries of their own. They couldn’t believe Little Caesar’s pizza was just $5. And Costco and Walmart absolutely blew their minds.

Once it came time to go to competition, we loaded both cars in our trailer and arrived at the competition site where we requested paddocks next to each other and the good times continued. In fact, it was very bittersweet saying goodbye for both teams because we knew that for many of us it might be the last time we would see each other. The instant friendship that formed by sharing the struggles, excitement and love for building FSAE cars had made us very close in a short amount of time. However, a few of the team members will be coming back to work in the US and we have already arranged to meet up with them and hang out outside of the FSAE world.