Concordia’s SAE Formula Electric team is building the racing car of the future
Just over a year ago, the Concordia Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Formula Electric team didn’t have a car to enter into competitions. Now, the group of 50 students is about a month away from getting their vehicle to run on its own.
“We’re just finalizing little bits to make sure our students are safe when they’re driving the car,” says the team’s coordinator Gillian Burgett, a second-year electrical engineering student.
“That’s really what’s stopping us at this point — the nitty-gritty details.”
Founded in 2016, Formula Electric is the newest of Concordia’s five SAE teams, which also include AeroDesign, Baja, Formula Combustion and Supermileage. While it usually takes four years for a dedicated student group to build a fully functioning electric car, Concordia’s team is close to completion going into its third year.
Burgett credits the collaboration between the Formula Combustion and Electric teams for the project’s speedy progress.
“Our front half of the car is exactly the same as the combustion vehicle,” she says. “We were able to use their expertise — they’re very helpful.”
Competitions offer hands-on experience
Last year was a busy one for Burgett and her colleagues. In May and June, the team participated in Formula North, a Canadian competition that aims to promote practical engineering experience and student innovation.
The Formula Electric team decided to enter the event rather than the official SAE competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, because Formula North prioritizes safety and allows students to participate even if their vehicle does not meet all the design requirements.
“We wanted to be able to bring our car, have design meetings with the judges and know where we need to improve,” Burgett explains.
“We were finishing the manufacturing process on our battery segments, and we didn’t know if we were on the right track. We were told that we’re doing it better than most teams do their first time.”
The project’s next step will be to make modifications on the car based on the feedback from judges at Formula North. The long-term goal is to enter Formula SAE Lincoln in June 2019 and pass the competition’s 200-page technology requirements rule book.
“We have sponsors that have been in it for the long haul and they continue to support us,” Burgett says.
“We really want to show them that their money has been worth it and show our students that their work has too.”
Everyone here wants to do well
The amount of time each group member spends in the Cage — a facility in the basement of the Henry F. Hall (H) Building — largely depends on his or her availabilities. Burgett admits that while she usually dedicates about 90 per cent of her spare time to the team, working in the Cage also provides additional benefits.
“Everyone here wants to do well — they want you to learn,” she says. “If I’m starting to struggle with my classes, I can always ask senior members and they’re more than willing to give me tutoring help.”
Formula Electric team lead Vicentiu-Cristian Badea highly recommends all engineering students join a club or association while at university. The second-year computer engineering student was drawn to the Formula Electric project because it is composed of a wide range of subsystems that all function together to achieve one thing — racing.
“This project is a huge motivator and pushes you to challenge yourself,” Badea says.
“It is important to remember that you will get out of it exactly what you put in.”
Students interested in joining Concordia Society of Automotive Engineers are invited to attend the SAE general assembly on September 20 at 7 p.m. in H-022 of the Henry F. Hall (H) Building (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.) on the Sir George Williams Campus.