Recently I have had the opportunity to attend a couple of Formula SAE events around the country. One of the things I noticed first was the complexity of the cars that the students had built and designed. The first event I attended was the Formula Hybrid event in New Hampshire. This event differed in that the vehicles were true hybrid designs instead of just gas based designs found in the regular SAE events. I volunteered to be a presentation judge for the event, along with spending some time out on the track as a corner worker for the actual racing events. The presentation event is structured to be a 10 minute 'pitch' the students make in order to try to sell their vehicle to a group of investors. The students develop business plans as well as cost break downs to try to convince the investors that they have a profitable design. There was one team in particular who did such a good job at the presentation, I was pretty much convinced they were actually manufacturing and selling a car!
At the Formula West event I went along with one of the SolidWorks Education Team members to speak with students, and to promote SolidWorks use in the program. We spent one day walking through the pits talking with the student teams about their cars and what software they had used to design them. Out of the 60 or so teams in attendance, 56 of them were already using SolidWorks, and 2 others were using Catia. It was nice to see such excitement and enthusiasm on behalf of the students, and they were all more then eager to talk about their vehicle design. They were using SolidWorks to not only design the frams and drive systems of their cars, they were also using SolidWorks SImulation to test the structure of the car, and using Flow Simulation to design the air intake boxes! They seemed to be even more enthusiastic about the free SolidWorks stickers they were given to place on their car as a sign of sponsorship from SolidWorks. Also included in that sponsorship is a free personal copy of the SolidWorks Student Edition that each team member can use outside of school. The students seemed to like the ease of use of SolidWorks, and the fact that lot's of employers in their area were already using SolidWorks as well, making the job search just a little bit easier.
Along with lots of spectators, the competitions also attract sponsorships from companies like GM, Honda, and Toyota who have corporate recruiters on hand accepting resumes, and looking for the next generation of automotive design talent.
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering at a Formula event, or would like to just go see what they are about, they can contact the organization via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also if a school team would like to gain SolidWorks sponsorship, they can visit this LINK to get it for the many different programs that SolidWorks sponsors.
Here is a highlight video from the 2007 series to give you a sense of what the event is like: