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July 16, 2021

SVSU’s Cardinal Formula Racing Team among top 20 in the world

Team placed 16th at SAE International’s Collegiate Design Series competition

Racing through a narrow figure-eight course at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Ben Stull had a few thoughts going through his mind: Don’t hit cones, hit my apex points, slow down my movements, be smooth. The mechanical engineering major’s performance helped secure a 16th place finish in SAE International’s Collegiate Design Series (CDS) Formula SAE® competition July 7-10. This was the sixth time the team has placed in the top 20 overall in the international competition. 

“This competition was, by far, the hardest of the three I have competed in,” said Ed Tomczyk, a mechanical engineering student from Grand Blanc and captain of the team. “We had technical inspection issues and mechanical troubles that we have never dealt with at competition.” 

Those issues meant the team had to repeat the technical inspection and soundcheck, but the members were determined to overcome all obstacles.  

“It was another successful year, even though the team didn’t do as well as they’d hoped,” said Brooks Byam, professor of mechanical engineering and Cardinal Formula Racing Team advisor. “There was a big disruption that resulted from a rules interpretation that affected the team from Thursday afternoon until late Friday morning, but the students persevered and ended up with a good result. I am proud of how they handled that difficult situation.”

Cardinal Formula Racing’s continued success at the CDS competitions is noteworthy because it is one of the smaller teams and one of the few composed entirely of undergraduate students. The team placed ahead of several larger schools, including the University of Florida, Northwestern University and Virginia Tech. Forty teams competed in this year’s validation event, which included five dynamic events:

  • Acceleration: Evaluations of the car’s ability to accelerate down a 75-meter straightaway, testing power and speed. 
  • Autocross: Evaluations of the car’s handling through a tightly wound course testing the car’s suspension and power. 
  • Endurance: 22-kilometer race with a mandatory driver change halfway through the race that forces the team to restart the car after the driver change. This event evaluates every aspect of the car and driver abilities.  
  • Efficiency: The evaluation of the car’s fuel economy, which is calculated during the endurance event.
  • Skid pad: The evaluation of the car’s cornering ability through a narrow figure-eight course, which tests the setup and balance of the suspension. 

The team’s best showing of the competition was the skid pad event―the course Stull drove―with a 10th place finish. The team placed 17th in autocross, 18th in acceleration and 19th in endurance/efficiency. Other drivers were Ethan Brown, a mechanical engineering major from Kimball; Tobias Pfeiffer, a mechanical engineering major from Grosse Ile; and Tomczyk. 

Other team members who participated in the competition were: 

  • Iain Bukowinski, a mechanical engineering major from Birmingham
  • Julia Carvey, a graphic design major from Farmington
  • Taylor Colletti, a mechanical engineering major from Troy 
  • Ethan Jones, a mechanical engineering major from Bolingbrook, Illinois
  • Sean McClary, an electrical engineering major from Saginaw
  • Michelle VanHautte, a mechanical engineering major from Saginaw 

For Stull, a novice on the team, the Formula SAE competition delivered a valuable learning experience. 

“I learned a lot about the auto industry, how the Formula SAE works, racing rules and regulations, the design-to-production process, and how great of an opportunity it is to be able to compete and be part of the team,” he said. “I also have my name and resume with a lot of employers.”