30 Years of Formula SAE
by Emi Knape | published Jan. 31st, 2022
“Do you want to build a race car?!” RIT’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (Formula SAE) is one of the most distinguished racing teams in the country, celebrating 30 years of automotive design, engineering and manufacturing.
RIT Racing dates back to 1991 when a group of engineers, spearheaded by Dave Hathaway, simply decided to make a car; competitive racing was still a new concept at the time, but quickly grew into popularity. With F0 being RIT’s first concept car, the team has since made around 28 race cars. They are currently working on number 29.
Motivation for Motors
With a constantly growing team, anyone remotely interested in automotive design and engineering has the chance to explore the field of racing, regardless of major.
Charlie King, a fourth year management information systems major and current business lead, gave insight as to why he joined RIT Formula SAE.
“The more complex the problem, the more attractive it is to me,” King said. “[And] Formula SAE is the biggest and most well-known team with so much outreach.”
Similarly, with other teams such as the SAE Mini Baja team and Hot Wheelz — the all girl’s racing team — RIT provides students the opportunity to explore their interests in engineering and automotive design, without having to directly be involved within the college of engineering. Within the Formula SAE team, there are multiple groups working together on fabrication and electrical design to ultimately bring the predominantly carbon-fibered car to life.
“There’s not a lot of ‘traditional car people’ on the team. This is just the most technical system anybody here can get their hands on,” King started. “We have biomedical majors on the team, fine arts, photography, and business students."
“The more complex the problem, the more attractive it is to me.”
Cruising Through Competitions
In terms of competitions, the team builds and races a new car every three years, competing in two to three smaller competitions during the summer. In the Formula Student competition — an international competition — there are multiple events, such as a cost competition, business presentation competition and dynamic competitions to test acceleration and endurance. Historically, RIT is known to be one of the better American teams, placing third in design the past two years; typically being one of the top three best cars overall.
Obviously, these victories do not come easy. A lot of hard work is put into the success of the car, and working collectively as a team is the most important factor to that.
“Communicating designs and failures is important. Making sure parts are manufacturable and getting it done in time — that’s the main focus every year,” King explained.
Similarly, building a car from scratch can get pretty pricey. Due to the team’s credibility, sponsors help with parts and materials, and RIT provides a generous amount of funding to help the team achieve their creative and engineering goals.
“Communicating designs and failures is important. Making sure parts are manufacturable and getting it done in time — that’s the main focus every year."
Finally, RIT’s Formula SAE team has been a great networking opportunity, providing students on the team with co-ops and jobs they do notneed to apply to. With sponsorships reaching out to the team directly, students on the team are given a multitude of opportunities to apply what they are doing in Formula SAE, directly, in the career world.
For the past 30 years, RIT’s Formula SAE team has continued to grow and develop into a well-known team of unique individuals who never fail to race their way to victory.