Northwestern Formula Racing unveiled their second-ever car, NFR11, to students and faculty on Friday. The team and its new car will compete against other collegiate formula racing teams at the Michigan International Speedway next week.
The team completed NFR11’s first test run at sunrise Friday morning after working on it all of Thursday afternoon and through the night. The car ran faster than expected and needed little modification.
“It’s heartbreaking when you crank the car and it doesn’t start,” said McCormick junior and assistant project manager Shonali Ditz. “But we got it to work on the first try. It was so exciting.”
McCormick senior Nick Renold said he expects the car to rank well in next week’s competition, which will involve evaluations of qualities such as design intelligence, fuel efficiency and performance and endurance in dynamic races.
“We’re guaranteed to get in the top 50 percent if we even finish all the dynamic events,” Renold said. “Our goal is to be in the top 40.”
President Morton Schapiro and McCormick School of Engineering Dean Julio Ottino spoke at the unveiling. Ottino expressed his happiness for the team.
“I can throw money at any student group like this,” Ottino said to the crowd, “but I would hope that at the end of the day they’ve worked as a team and produced something you can see and test. And this group has. I want all student groups to pay off like this one.”
McCormick senior and project manager Brendon DiVincenzo, one of the team’s original founders, said he was more proud of the team than of the car.
“The car is great, but what we take with us after we graduate is what we learned from building a car together,” DiVincezo said. “The fact that everyone on the team was contributing, learning and becoming the best engineers is just spectacular.”
Historically small, Northwestern Formula Racing has been working to build the team in both numbers and quality this year. Twenty-five of the current 30 members were recruited in the fall. The team’s leaders restructured the training process to encourage immediate involvement from underclassmen and new members.
“Before, underclassmen would hang around the shop, ask questions and just research and learn on their own,” Ditz said. “This year we decided to teach a brief, half-hour session each Saturday before working on the car. We didn’t want it to feel like class so we taught the minimum amount of theory and more of the application.”
This learn-by-doing method has made classes easier for younger team members. McCormick freshman Jacob Buser said he already knows the material for his civil engineering and engineering analysis classes this quarter.
“I had a computer modeling project for EA4, but I had already done the exact same thing to model the suspension of this car,” Buser said. “I’m ahead of the learning curve, at least for now.”
As a result of the training workshops, each team member worked on something that was essential to the car, Ditz said.
“Everyone is important and so everyone has respect for each other,” Ditz said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie on the team. It’s a really good group of people.”