Making fixes on the fly

Student team pulls off last-minute repairs to top Canadian entries at formula-style race event

By Brian Caldwell Faculty of Engineering

Members of a student design team worked into the wee hours of the morning on repairs to help finish as the top Canadian entry at a recent event in Michigan for formula-style, internal combustion race cars.

UW Formula Motorsports , which is made up of 50 to 60 students at the University of Waterloo, competed in several challenges at Formula SAE Michigan along with 98 other teams from Canada, the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and Germany.

With more than 20 team members in attendance at the Michigan International Speedway, Waterloo overcame last-minute problems to complete all challenges, including a 22-kilometre endurance run, and finish in 13th place overall.

"I loved seeing their faces when it worked and we passed the hardest event in the competition," said Sarah Johanna, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student who is doing her Capstone Design project as a senior member of the team.

"It was one of the most rewarding things ever, especially to come back so strong after two years of lockdowns, missed competitions and struggles."

Formula SAE was launched more than 40 years ago to challenge university students to conceive, design, fabricate, develop and compete with small, formula-style vehicles. Events are staged both off-track and on-track against the clock.

The competition had special meaning for Waterloo after the names of two members who passed away in 2020 and earlier this year - Jason Arbour, a second-year computer engineering student, and Apostoli Marinakos, who was in his third year of mechanical engineering - were displayed on a rear wing of its car as a tribute.

"They cared about the team, they spent a lot of time with us and they mean a lot to us, and their parents also say that we mean a lot to them," said Johanna.