The greatest benefits to joining a motorsports league are the experiences and problem-solving skills you gain outside the classroom. These skills can come in handy when starting your job search.
The RIT Formula SAE Racing Team (RIT Racing) at the Rochester Institute of Technology has been learning these lessons and skills since they joined Formula SAE and Formula Student in 1991.
“Every year, students get to tackle design work on our combustion and electric formula race cars,” says Jason Levy, project manager of RIT Racing. “They learn about system modeling and integration, component design and general problem-solving. As an engineer on a formula team, you are exposed to technical theory, calculations, design, analysis, manufacturing and fun beyond what a classroom environment can offer.”
Need proof? Levy has been with RIT Racing for only a few years. In that time he has learned to:
- Manufacture parts to specifications using CNC milling and lathes.
- Design parts, like sprockets and drivetrains, for manufacturability.
- Choose gear ratios for transmissions.
- Tune limited-slip differentials.
Imagine that on your resume. Clearly, recent graduates with these skills have a leg up on their job search come graduation.
“In fact,” says Gilles Eggenspieler, Academic Program sales director at ANSYS, “many employers won’t even look at a student’s grades. They want to know what you built and what engineering tools you use. This is why joining a motorsports team is essential.”
“Being a member of the Formula team has opened many opportunities for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone in college interested in some real-world experience,” Levy says.
Some schools are beginning to take notice of the job opportunities that open up for engineering students with motorsports experience. As a result, many are starting to give these academic teams credit toward their undergraduate degrees.
“Originally, motorsports activities were deemed extracurricular, and the teams were driven solely by the student’s passion to learn, compete and win these events,” says Paul Lethbridge, senior manager at ANSYS. “Today the top engineering schools have fully adopted the hands-on engineering approach, where students are taught to think like professional engineers, and hone their skills from direct experience. I wish that I had had such an opportunity when I was an undergraduate.”
How Simulation Benefits Student Motorsports Teams
Another benefit to joining a motorsports team is gaining access to engineering simulation technology.
Not every engineering curriculum includes simulation, but they should, because simulation skills are rapidly becoming an industry requirement. Motorsports gives you this opportunity.
“We use ANSYS analysis software for almost every metallic component that we design for our race car,” says Levy. “The software is incredibly useful to us for structural simulation and analysis.
“We aim to build the most mass-efficient vehicle we can, and ANSYS simulations allow our designers to shave unnecessary weight out of vehicle components so they are as lightweight and strong as possible,” he adds.
Simulation helps RIT Racing reduce the weight of their parts by clearly illustrating the load path of an applied force through the analyzed component or system.
Currently, RIT Racing has used simulation to structurally optimize their brakes, suspension, drivetrain and other structural systems.
“Each year, we try to learn better analysis techniques and methods to make our simulations more accurate and precise,” notes Levy. “We are going further with our use of ANSYS Fluent to analyze our aerodynamics and our intake plenum. We will also expand on our thermal simulations and modal analysis.”
RIT Racing has just started a full redesign of both of their cars. The plan is to revise the cars’ engine packages, suspension kinematics and chassis geometries. This work will allow RIT Racing’s engineers to dive deeper into problems they encounter when making their vehicles.
“ANSYS software is vital to our team and we use it extensively to complete a sound, lightweight and efficient design for our vehicle,” says Levy. “It also assists in our engineering education, with analysis and simulation results teaching our designers more about general engineering concepts through practical application. Without ANSYS our race car would be significantly less refined, and we would be deficient in our overall understanding of the components we design.”
It’s no wonder that students working on a motorsports team have such a glowing resume.