SwoopD3 came to Michigan International Speedway ready to put the screaming osprey on its nose across the finish line first.
But a broken wing put the University of North Florida’s Osprey Racing team in 82nd place this month at the annual Formula SAE competition, one slot down from last year’s single-seat race car series for college engineering teams across the world.
This was Osprey Racing’s third attack on the college competition after it came in 81st out of 125 teams last year, 20 ahead of its 2012 premiere. But part of its differential broke during the competition after the car was trailered to the huge track for its first race, Osprey Racing vice president and student Ju-John Huo said.
“The differential mounting rod end broke and the other bent, and we think it was mainly because of forces enacted on it when the clutch was engaged,” Huo said. “ … We pushed our brand-new car and I believe this year we learned a lot, and next year we will do better.”
The Society of Automotive Engineers competition started in 1979 to challenge student engineers to design, build and drive a race car that can withstand technical inspection, racing and a 13-mile endurance run. Former student Justin Tussey started Osprey Racing five years ago so the University of North Florida’s engineering students could compete in it.
The first car was built with $25,000 in donations, a used Honda motorcycle engine and help from local racers and machine shops. Students modified it into last year’s 60-pound-lighter, 65-horsepower Swoopdie2 with another $9,000 in donations.
This year’s race car cost about $36,000, raised via donations or help from sponsors in parts or construction. Osprey Racing went up against 107 other student teams from as far away as Dubai and Stuttgart. Six Florida schools also competed against them — University of Florida (ninth place), University of South Florida (51st), Florida Atlantic University (76th), Florida Institute of Technology (80th) and Florida International University (82nd).
Osprey’s new car was built by the 17-member team, 10 of them seniors. It is more aerodynamic, with a more reclined seat, digital dashboard and pneumatic shifting. It was 16 pounds heavier, with about 75-horsepower from a newer rebuilt Honda engine.
The differential issue happened halfway through the endurance laps and the car was eliminated.
Brand new meant “hiccups,” Huo said. But the car becomes the “necessary stepping stone” for next year’s team to be more competitive, he said.
The school also placed 24th in the business presentation, with the video at youtube.com/watch?v=CVcAdOKLHM0.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549
The University of North Florida’s Osprey racing team showed off its third-generation race car at the March 9 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Showing off the completed frame with suspension and engine pieces in place, the soon-to-be completed car is set to compete May 14 to 17 at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers Formula SAE event at Michigan International Speedway. The competition started in 1979 to challenge student engineers to design, build and drive a race car that can withstand technical inspection, racing and a 13-mile endurance run. Former student Justin Tussey started Osprey Racing five years ago.
Concours chairman and founder Bill Warner invited Osprey Racing to show off its latest car on the show field, surrounded by 325 other classics. The team’s last car, Swoopdie2, came in 81st out of 125 university teams last year, 20 ahead of its 2012 premiere.
While most students were sleeping in or soaking up the sun, one group of students spent Labor Day working under the sun in Lot 18.
They blocked the exits with vehicles and marked a course with orange cones. A formula racing engine roared to life. They transformed Lot 18 into a racetrack.
Osprey Racing spent its holiday collecting data and information to improve their vehicle. Some students monitored computer screens and processed data. Others drove or maintained the vehicle.
“The Osprey Racers are a student group that was started by students a few years ago all on there own initiative,” said Dr. Tumeo, Dean of the College of Computing and Engineering.
Osprey Racing, founded in 2010, is a relatively unknown. The club initially lacked funding from UNF. Now local sponsors, such as Sabre Technology and Miscellaneous Sheet Metal, provide the monetary support for Osprey Racing.
“This will be our third year in competition,” said Michael McCollum, president of Osprey Racing “We’ve had a great set of founding people that put the club together and put a whole race car together, almost from nothing.”
Despite its young age, Osprey Racing is making a name for itself. At Formula SAE 2012, Osprey Racing placed 81st out of 120 international teams. The next year at FSAE 2013 the club jumped 20 spots to place 61st.
“We have almost the whole car designed for the coming year already. We’re way ahead of schedule. I think this year we’ll do really well in the competition,” McCollum said.
UNF doesn’t have the same advantage as other schools. Universities like Oregon State have multi-million-dollar budgets, advanced manufacturing equipment and a longer-standing program. UNF’s team, on the other hand, has 30 members and a budget of $25,000.
“When it comes down to it, it’s the experience that’ll take us further than anything,” McCollum said.
Osprey Racing members gain hands-on experience, and not all of it has to do with engineering. Teams are required to put together business models, marketing strategies, and advertisements as if their car were to be mass-marketed. This, compounded with mechanical experience and industrial fabrication, provides a variety of opportunities for students in the field.
“They’ve demonstrated what an engineering education means at UNF. Not only will they get the best education in the country and be a great engineer, but it’s fun,” said Tumeo.
Jason Binder flipped down his helmet visor as Swoopdie2 idled around him.
Then the single-seat racer, a screaming osprey airbrushed on its nose, pulled away from the University of North Florida’s Osprey Racing team to lap Lot 18 at the Jacksonville school.
Summer may be vacation for most students. But Osprey Racing is using it to prepare for its third attack on the annual Formula SAE competition next May at Michigan International Raceway after it came in 81st out of 125 university teams this year. That’s 20 ahead of its 2012 premiere.
“It’s been incredible,” said Binder, who raced in some May events. “… I felt a little bit of fear, a little bit of excitement and a little bit of everything.”
The 2012 car was rebuilt for 2013 but won’t be used again. Instead, a narrower and lighter car with a wing will be built for spring testing with more funding from the university, team captain Beau Fordham said. The school wants the team to keep Swoopdie2 for display when it isn’t used for training.
“We are getting drivers used to driving a Formula SAE-style car,” Fordham said. “That was one of the problems we had last year as people were nervous and didn’t know how the car would react.”
The Society of Automotive Engineers competition started in 1979 to challenge student engineers to design, build and drive a race car that can withstand technical inspection, racing and a 13-mile endurance run. Former student Justin Tussey started Osprey Racing four years ago so engineering students could compete in it.
Working under SAE rules, they built the first car with $25,000 in donations and a used Honda CBR motorcycle engine.
Another $9,000 in donations saw the second-generation car built with 65 horsepower and 60 pounds lighter due to a carbon fiber seat and body. The 17-member team placed in every category.
“It was a lot of emotions because we worked so hard for that last week to get the car together to get it on the track,” Fordham said.
Graduate Ben Witten, last year’s team president, is eager for a top-40 spot at the 2014 competition.
“The first year we knew nothing. The second year we knew a lot more. All we are going to do is get better from now on,” he said, now a team volunteer. “The school has begun to acknowledge us a lot better and back us a lot more.”
Osprey Racing is having a reception Thursday to celebrate this year’s competition and thank sponsors. Swoopdie2 is on the guest list.