WPI Engineers Build FSAE Car for Competition in a Closet and Succeed at Formula Hybrid + Electric

In 2019, WPI Engineers had passion to build a competitive FSAE vehicle for Formula SAE Michigan.  What they didn’t have is space.  Assigned the former machinist’s closet  the team successfully converted the space to design, build, test, widen the closet door, and get closer to competition. WPI completed all FSAE dynamic and static events in Michigan, rising 20 places and improving in each category.

In the 2020-2021 season, the WPI FSAE team had a new goal, create a Formula Electric car for competition. With the help of engineering advisors, Williams Michalson, electrical and computer systems, David Planchard, mechanical systems, department approval, and determined students,  a two-year design, build, and race goal began.

How do you transfer a mechanical engineering FSAE team to an all electric FSAE team?  The first step was to recruit a multi disciplinary team, with mechanical, electrical, robotics, and computer science engineering majors.

John Williams led the team in 2021 through a COVID-restricted year, shifting design focus to all electric.

Scheduling around the clock was key, only a few team members could work on the car due to space constraints.

In the first year of the electric build,  small manual tests for material selection played a critical role.

With limited space for testing, SOLIDWORKS Simulation was paramount.

Design review meetings were held through Zoom.  The mechanical suspension team designed a new frame to support the electrical requirements, Simulations showed new possibilities.

To keep costs down, students designed and machined many new components including the foot pedal with extra room for the drivers foot to rest and new uprights for support.

In 2021-2022 season, Jessica Babcock, mechanical project manager and Ilyas Sahli, electrical project manager brought sub-teams together with the goal of participating in Formula Hybrid + Electric.  Pre judging occurred on site in the closet and students listened carefully to FSAE Hybrid + Electrical judge’s recommendations.

Then came the completed reports, structural equivalency, electrical systems, impact attenuator, change management,  design, and sustainability.

In addition to preparing for Formula Hybrid + Electric, many team members used the new vehicle design as part of their Major Qualifying Project (MQP)/senior design capstone project, winning second place in the Provost award category.

The weekend before competition, the team was “all-in”.   For the first time, the wheels turned and all simulated systems were now a reality.  With no drive time, the WPI engineers took a chance and drove to the New Hampshire Speedway to begin a 4-day grueling competition.

The students first endured the design judging and static events achieving the coveted “technical inspection” sticker.  Next came the dynamic events and the WPI vehicle, named “Purple Haze”,  performed beautifully.  Finally on the last day, WPI’s first electric vehicle finished all 40 laps of endurance.

WPI’s first Formula Electric vehicle achieved 4th place overall and won the IEEE Advanced Technology for Humanity Excellence in Electrical Vehicle Engineering award.

Thank you WPI FSAE engineers for inspiring all of us to persevere and design well.   Proud Alum, Marie (MSME – WPI)








Marie Planchard

Marie Planchard

Senior Director, Early Engagement, 3DEXPERIENCE Works at Dassault Systemes
Marie Planchard is an education and engineering advocate. As Senior Director of Education & Early Engagement, SOLIDWORKS, she is responsible for global development of content and social outreach for the 3DEXPERIENCE Works products across all levels of learning including educational institutions, Fab Labs, and entrepreneurship.
Marie Planchard