Kip Ringsrud types on the laptop under a tent as his teammates, Drew Bellus and Julian Aguilar, lean over the vehicle and fiddle with some controls.
A whirring noise briefly leads to the sound of an engine catching. They start to smile, but nothing happens. They collectively groan as the sputtering ends and quiet once again settles around them.
“It’s close!” said Ringsrud.
This is the world of Ram Racing — building the CSU Formula SAE racecar as a mechanical senior design project in the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering.
Building a racecar from the ground up
The three men working on the CSU Formula SAE racecar on the last day of May have just returned with an O-ring – a little gasket that they hoped would get the engine started again. They work in a temporary makeshift garage on the abandoned Christman Field airstrip, under two blue square tents and a trailer.
The students are carrying their project beyond their May 2019 graduation: They’re prepping for a regional Formula SAE intercollegiate competition that will feature 80 teams in Lincoln, Nebraska, on June 19. They revealed their new car design at the Old Town Car Show in Fort Collins on June 1.
It’s the day before the car show and they can’t get the engine to start, but they aren’t worried.
“We’ve learned so much working on this thing,” said Ringsrud, a 2019 mechanical engineering graduate originally from the Bay Area near San Jose, California. “We did most of the work.”
Remarkable experience leading to career innovation
All of them agree building the car from the ground up has prepared them for exciting careers in industry. Only the brakes and wheels came from racecars used in previous competitions – the students designed just about everything else from scratch. Separate teams were created to work on drivetrain, chassis, driver interface and aerodynamics.
Ringsrud is hoping to find a job with one of the big automotive companies that attend the Formula SAE events. Aguilar, who is from Greeley, and Bellus, from Kokomo, Indiana, are more interested in aerospace careers.
Other members of this year’s CSU Formula SAE team included Hayden Deatherage, Christina Hakl, David Morton, Mitchell Randle, Michael Sartini and Michael Susman. Their adviser was Chris Weinberger, mechanical engineering assistant professor.
Ringsrud also praised Sartini, the team’s project manager, for putting an enormous amount of work and energy into the project.
Graduating with important project skills
That teamwork required raising money for the car with a little seed money from donors to the college’s Senior Design Project. They asked industry partners for in-kind services and financial support including:
- Blueprint Skilled Services
- Eriks Chevrolet (Kokomo, Ind.)
- Colorado Waterjet Company
- Avid Product Development
- Dix Machine Shop Inc.
- Monster Energy
- Aptco LLC
- CSU Bookstore
- HMS Motorsports
- Fiber Glast Development Corporation
In addition to fundraising, students learned some significant soft skills such as speaking and conflict resolution.
And don’t forget perseverance.
Remember that engine problem they were having? Late that afternoon, they isolated the problem to the fuel pump, and called nearly every motorcycle shop in Colorado for a replacement. They found it in a Denver shop just as it was closing early that evening, making for a long night before the car show in Fort Collins the next morning.
“You learn how to fit within a team, how to deal with different personalities you’re not used to,” said Bellus, who added that, with such a small team, every job was important. “It’s very obvious if you didn’t do the work. It pushes us to be the best we can.”