It takes the majority of car manufacturers twenty-two months to bring a new or revised production car to market. Formula SAE (FSAE) teams have nine months and significantly less funding to build a Formula-style race car. This ambitious task is executed by full-time college students with scant engineering experience, let alone car production knowledge. In fact, on a good day, 30% of the teams that participate in these competitions don’t even finish the race events.
Jakob Madgar is tasked with leading Ohio State’s FSAE team, the Formula Buckeyes through their grueling FSAE season. “Every year our design process begins at the end of the summer, primarily using SOLIDWORKS and ANSYS” explains Madgar. “We design the vehicle to fit the strict competition requirements, and then we go into fabrication and testing at the beginning of March. This year, we are competing in Michigan in May and Canada in June. There, we’ll participate in a series of events–basic stack events like inspections, a cost & manufacturing analysis, a business presentation, and dynamic events such as autocross and endurance.”
As team members graduate, new teammates are added. This is a perpetual cycle that every FSAE team faces, and Madgar is responsible for getting new members up to speed. “Usually new members have a general grasp [of CAD], but we need to reinforce the basics and teach them our design standards.”
A great deal of design knowledge disappears when veteran students leave Ohio State. Team design standards, ways to solve complex design problems, and general engineering experience can be lost in the turnover. Jeff Christos, who advises the team, does as much as he can to help but knows his limitations. “I’m not a CAD person,” explains Christos. “I’m not the person students run to when they can’t figure out a SOLIDWORKS issue.” Madgar and the other leaders are advanced engineering students, but not professional engineers and technicians. “We struggle with advanced SOLIDWORKS actions,” admits Madgar. “Surfacing always seems to give us issues.”
Every season, Madgar distributes SolidProfessor licenses to his team. He sets up a virtual class for everyone on the team to join. New members can go through introductory SOLIDWORKS lessons covering sketch tools, applied features, and mirroring. Experienced members can use SolidProfessor to dive into advanced SOLIDWORKS techniques, such as assembly modeling and surfacing.
“At the beginning of the season, newer students aren’t involved in a hands-on capacity, but they need to be learning,” Madgar says. “A lot of students want to skip over the introductory lessons, jump right in to working on the car and get to fancier techniques. I set up the class because most of the incoming students need a place to start developing foundational design skills.”
Madgar’s teammates are using their memberships everywhere. There are a limited number of workstations in the Motorsport lab and its resources are shared with six other teams, so it makes sense for the team to work in the lab and learn how to master their software tools at home.
“It’s extremely simple to get everyone acquainted with SolidProfessor’s platform. The majority of people that join our FSAE team are visual learners because they come from the mechanical engineering program,” Madgar recalls. “Seeing complex models conveyed visually is the way I, and the members of the team, prefer to learn.”
The Formula Buckeyes are currently in the fabrication and testing cycle of their FSAE season. The design team has maximized proficiency and optimized meeting time thanks to SolidProfessor’s comprehensive library and portable platform. “It’s our go-to resource,” concluded Madgar. Building a Formula 1 style race car alongside forty-five teammates with varying skill levels is hard, but with SolidProfessor, Formula Buckeyes has answers for any questions that arise.