Elon’s New Engineering Program Empowers Students to Construct Electric Formula 1 Racecar

    Incredible! You Won’t Believe What These Student Engineers Are Creating

    Prepare to be amazed by the groundbreaking work being done by a team of student engineers at Elon University. These brilliant minds are designing and building an electric racecar from scratch to compete in the highly prestigious Formula SAE Electric competitions. These competitions attract designs from top international engineering programs, making it a truly tough challenge. But these Elon students are ready to take on the world and showcase their skills.

    The team, known as Phoenix Racing, is based in Founders Hall’s Clark Prototype Lab. Day in and day out, these passionate individuals are dedicating countless hours to machining components, welding the chassis, and designing the driver’s interface and circuitry. They are leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit of perfection. Their hard work will culminate in the creation of a top-notch Formula 1 electric car that will put Elon’s engineering program on the map.

    But what makes this project truly remarkable is that none of the team members had any prior experience in building a car. Despite that, they are fearlessly venturing into the unknown and defying expectations. Nicholas Muller, the co-founder and team principal of Phoenix Racing, emphasizes the significance of this endeavor, not just for the team but also for the engineering program at Elon. He states, “It shows what we’re capable of as Elon engineers, and it’s incredibly meaningful to all of us.”

    The ultimate aim of Phoenix Racing is to compete in the 2024 FSAE Electric competition near Detroit. In order to achieve this, they need to surpass the winning time set by Georgia Tech last year: 75 meters in 3.6 seconds. It’s a challenging goal, but this team is not one to back down from a challenge. They have been actively seeking sponsors and partners to secure the necessary funding to design a car that can outperform the competition. Last year, 70 programs participated in the FSAE Electric competition, with universities like Carnegie Mellon, the University of Washington, and Virginia Tech securing top spots.

    Precision is paramount when it comes to these Formula 1-style vehicles. They are capable of accelerating from zero to 60 mph in a jaw-dropping 2 seconds, faster than any car on the market. To ensure safety and robustness, these cars require meticulously designed high-quality components. Fortunately, the Innovation Quad’s state-of-the-art machine shop and prototype labs provide the Elon FSAE team with cutting-edge equipment that makes their dream become a reality.

    Elon’s engineering program is known for its hands-on experiential learning opportunities, and this electric car project perfectly embodies that philosophy. It allows students to apply complex technical skills, collaborate with teammates, and communicate effectively in a real-world setting. Scott Wolter, the chair of the Department of Engineering, emphasizes the value of this hands-on learning approach. He explains, “You learn something in class and you put it into practice. There’s nothing better than that kind of experiential learning, and that is the environment we promote for our students at Elon.”

    The Formula SAE Electric competitions have been challenging teams of undergraduate and graduate students since 1981. These young innovators are tasked with conceiving, designing, fabricating, developing, and demonstrating small, lightweight, single-seat vehicles. The entries are judged not only based on speed but also on innovative designs that control acceleration, efficiency, and endurance. Being a competitive FSAE team is a testament to the strength of an engineering program, and many large institutions boast teams with over 100 members and decades of design and prototype experience.

    Leading the way for Phoenix Racing are Nicholas Muller, Henry Echt, and Jack O’Donnell. This determined team consists of 18 students from various majors, all working towards a common goal. Matthew Banks, the Engineering Lab Manager, provides valuable guidance and insight as their advisor. The design of this first car has even been incorporated into the yearlong Senior Projects in Elon Engineering Design (SPEED) course. Seniors are currently dedicating their efforts to tackling crucial subsystem design and build tasks, such as the human-machine interface and ergonomics behind the wheel.

    Henry Echt, a double major in computer science and communication design, is leading the drivetrain team. After weeks of hard work and countless late nights, he and Muller successfully brought the electric motor to life during a marathon session in February. Echt expresses his enthusiasm for the project, saying, “I love how I am challenged every day. The different types of conversations I have help me go into classes with a dynamic perspective.”

    Another team member, Ben Trainum, is pursuing a double major in engineering with a computing concentration and computer science. He finds the advanced design work to be invigorating and a unique opportunity for personal growth. Trainum has spent countless hours designing the car’s rechargeable battery and has gained valuable skills and mastery that go beyond what can be taught in a traditional classroom setting. He remarks, “With this team, I’m getting to teach myself and apply high-voltage battery pack design, CNC machining, manual machining, and gaining a far deeper level of mechanical design experience.”

    The team’s dedication has allowed them to forge connections with industry experts and professionals at other colleges and universities. They received assistance from the welding program at nearby Alamance Community College in constructing the chassis. In addition to their hands-on work, the team has been actively reaching out to potential sponsors and fostering communication with business partners. So far, they have managed to raise over $24,000 of the $40,000 needed to be fully prepared for the competition by May. Some notable sponsors include Sandvik Coromant, Bravo Team, AKG of America, Corvid Technologies, and ACI Automotive and Performance.

    While there is still plenty of work yet to be done, the team is on track to meet the June 2024 deadline. The members are tirelessly working to finish the body work, build the power packs and battery management system, finalize the electrical system, and fabricate the suspension. The long hours, late nights, and weekends spent in the IQ’s machine shop are paying off, and their perseverance and passion are shining through.

    Henry Echt sums up the team’s spirit perfectly, saying, “My favorite part of this is who we are. Everyone’s goal is to build this car, make it to Detroit, and show everyone what we can do with a lean, passionate team.” Indeed, their dedication and determination will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on Elon’s engineering program and inspire future generations of students to push the boundaries of innovation.

    If you’re interested in being a part of this extraordinary journey with Phoenix Racing, don’t hesitate to reach out to Nicholas Muller at Remember, great things can be achieved when brilliant minds come together and embrace the impossible. Stay tuned for more updates on this incredible project!

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