BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU's TigerRacing team finished in the top 10 in mechanical engineering's elite Formula SAE competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. They finished 9th in the nation for the very first time in a test that spanned from July 17-20.
Driving an uber-cool car built by the students, the Formula One model had to pass muster of a 150-page rule book for just the technical side of competition. Faculty advisor Ingmar Schoegl said the tech test is only the beginning.
"The competition is to create a product. So we have to make a business case, then cost-reporting to present on their design," Schoegl said "So those are the static events. The dynamic events are the cars actually being driven, a figure-8 event. There's a skid pad. It's testing the lateral handling in the car, acceleration. A length of area that you get to top acceleration as fast as possible."
Then it's not enough for the car to go laterally on slops, forward and backward, but a course of hairpin and hard right angle turns tests the model's auto-cross automotive tight corners. There are laps and laps to accomplish.
LSU said its car finished ninth in the most important event in Lincoln, the 15-lap endurance race. Among the 66 cars that competed, LSU earned 204.1 of the team's 660.7 points. The car finished in the top 30 of the seven other categories.
"It wasn't until about 2013 when we actually made it a club," said TigerRacing team president Eric Rohli said. "We get new members, and right now everyone who's in the club is on the team. What we're gonna try to do this year is open up to new members with more fun events, not so much heavy pressure and building the car only."
They accept any student who wants to join the club, though most are mechanical engineering people. They've had an English major and a marketing major at one time.
Competing does not set a college student back financially. Rohli said that is deliberate.
"You have to pay club membership dues: $25 for returning members, $40 for new. Most of that covers team apparel (Tiger Team T-shirts). Lodging is covered out of the team budget, as is fuel for transportation to the competitions. So you just pay about $100 for food. We try to keep it as simple as possible. We keep it out of our wallets, keep [expenses] on the team."
The LSU TigerRacing team fine tunes its mean machine through repeated competitions.
Not long ago, the team finished 22nd in Michigan at a big race event for college teams Formula SAE. Team members study intensely the marks against them and adjusted.
Joe Hollier is currently a Defense Department contractor engineer in Boston, but helped found the TigerRacing team in 2013 and competed through graduation.
"We don't have to re-invent the wheel every year," said Hollier. "Starting this year we had more than a dozen designer ports (on the web). What that allows us to do, as new students join us, they can look back on what we've done to be successful. What successful companies do in the world, they have a database to show what they do right. [Tiger Racing] also saved what we did wrong. Learning from failure is important."
Hollier said he's proud that team members for past LSU cars usually graduate to jobs right out of college. He said major companies send reps to move among the smart students at these racing contests.
"Space-X, the only private company launching cargo into space, send their engineers. GM, Ford, all the big automotive guys. Say you're an average person trying to get their attention, this is a golden opportunity."