- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

RACINE, Wis. (AP) - Mechanical engineering students from University of Wisconsin-Madison are taking their book work off the page and onto the track for an international race car competition for college students.

“The goal is to win,” said Alex Gehrke, Wisconsin Formula SAE Racing team technical director.

Gehrke is graduating in two weeks and has an internship at SpaceX in California this summer, but right now he’s got some serious work to do with his team, testing their prototype at Racine-based Modine Manufacturing Co., The Journal Times (https://bit.ly/2p23IdZ ) reported.

The WR-217, as it known, is a composite carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb laminated structure over a turbo-charged Yamaha YZ450F single cylinder motorcycle engine.

“In my experience running the car, it’s very different than anything you’ve ever driven before,” Gehrke said.

Modine, a technology leader in the HVAC industry, is a team sponsor and provided its 1941 wind tunnel this week for the student team.

“In the wind tunnel, the goal here is to validate our simulations that we ran to characterize the airflow around the car and also through the side radiator pods,” Gehrke said.

On Friday, the team was using a digital rotary anemometer to test how the temperature changes through wind speed and different aero trim packages on the car affects how the car cools itself.

If they get it right, the team’s car gets its chance to compete against more than a hundred teams from around the world at the Formula SAE (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers) on May 10-13 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

UW-Madison won the competition in 2007 and has been trying to get back to the top ever since. Last year, the team placed sixth; team members think they can do better this year.

Third-year student Isaiah Mitchell, who works as the team aerodynamics lead, has mixed emotions about the completion of the project as the car takes the track soon.

“It’s a mixed bag of worms. I love to hate it, in terms of there is nothing I’d rather be doing than working on the car. You spend so much time designing it, to actually see it drive is awesome,” Mitchell said.

The excitement could turn to disappointment if they don’t place, but right now it’s all optimism.

“Doing poorly will make us hungry and do better next year,” Mitchell said.

After the competition is over, the students who are continuing in the program plan to use this year’s car as a platform for testing to see what they want to change for the next year. Sometimes, alumni members return to help.

“We transition that knowledge through the team to grow as an organization so we always get better even though we have new members every year,” Gehrke said.

UW-Madison has been competing in the competition for three decades and Modine has been a team sponsor annually.


Information from: The Journal Times, https://www.journaltimes.com

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