Osprey Racing Prepares for National Competition – UNF Spinnaker
Since last year’s competition, the University of North Florida Osprey Racing Club has been gearing up for Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Collegiate Design Series held at Michigan International Speedway, beginning May 18.
“Every year we design and build a single-seater race car to compete with schools around the world in a competition,” explained team captain Nathan Stratton.
Stratton, a mechanical engineering student, described the year-long planning process the team went through in preparation for this year’s competition. As the club is student-run, members must complete both finals and their car within the same amount of time.
“We are currently balancing the end of things and balancing our finals. So the weekend between the finals and our departure is going to be very busy for us. It will probably be the busiest week of the year,” he said.
the four day contest hosts 120 teams from all over the world, including teams from Germany and Austria. Each team will compete in three static and four dynamic events. 16 UNF members will travel and stay until the end of the event on May 23.
Static events occur before competition begins in Michigan. These events held online include a business presentation, technical design review, and team budget cost analysis. This year they have a business team, although it is primarily an engineering club. Because of these events, Stratton said the team can be inclusive for more students with different areas of study, with a focus on business and budget for these events.
“We have a lot of members who aren’t engineers either, and that’s one of the biggest areas we’ve grown in this year,” he said.
Dynamic events include Acceleration, Drift, Autocross, and Endurance/Fuel Economy. Acceleration is a 75 meter straight run that tests the car’s ability to pick up speed. Skidpad asks the driver to drive around a figure-8 track to test cornering ability. With two attempts, the autocross assesses the speed of the car in one lap. The last test, endurance/fuel economy, is an 11 to 12 minute trip, alternating between two drivers, to test the car in its entirety as well as its fuel consumption.
Last year, Stratton shared, the team finished about 30th nationally; their best performance. The car built by the team was their ninth, and they still use it for events, including a recent team drive day to get all members behind the wheel. Stratton hopes to at least match last year’s result.
“The goal this year is to be the best team in Florida,” Stratton explained.
Of all the competitors, Osprey Racing prioritizes competition among other schools in Florida, with the University of Florida (UF) being their main rival. The result of last year’s competition brought the two teams closer in the standings, with UF taking the lead. Despite the rivalry, Stratton explained that all of the teams in the competition are friendly with each other, and he even talks to members of teams from UF and other Florida schools.
Another goal for this year, the team wants to learn from last year and improve in every way possible. “If we can dial in a few things and fix a few things that I think we’ve got so far this year, we’re going to have a really, really good year,” Stratton said hopefully.
Due to competition rules, the team had to build a new frame. They started working on the new car as soon as the competition ended last year and wanted to build an all-new design. Cars from past competitions can be seen here. This year’s car will be unveiled to the public just before the team leaves for the competition.
“This year’s car is supposed to be lighter and just a more optimized version of what we had last year,” he said.
Faculty Advisor Dr. John Nuszkowski shared his experience advising the team. “They’ve done a good job recently with growing and creating a good, cohesive team. It’s always a challenge from year to year,” he said.
Stratton appreciates Dr. Nuszkowski’s advice because he lets the team make mistakes as an opportunity to solve problems on their own and always gives good advice when asked.
“I’m pretty excited to see where they are. There’s a bit of luck when you don’t know if something is going to randomly fail this time around,” Dr. Nuszkowski said. “I think we have a very, very good team this year.”
According to Dr Nuszkowski, funding is always a challenge as it is ‘not a cheap club’. The UNF 50-Hour Donation Challenge raised $1.75,000 for Osprey Racing, according to their instagram.
With greater involvement from the university, Stratton explained that they were able to present to the board to explain why they think the club is important to the university. Stratton also spoke in a publicity video shown to the Board of Governors.
Requesting $21,822.38 in total, Osprey Racing submitted to Student Government (SG) on October 22, 2021. Without funding, the team explained that they would not be able to compete in Michigan. At first, the SG members were concerned about the price, but eventually they agreed that the funding would be good for the UNF community. SG passed The law project, which helped pay for the running of the club for a year and to build the new framework. At the last Senate meeting on April 15, Stratton updated SG on what he had accomplished with the funding, posting photos of the new frame and parts.
Although the club’s monetary demands may seem too expensive, both Stratton and Dr. Nuszkowski said it was a worthwhile investment, as the club plays an important role at UNF as a vehicle for students to work together and apply what they learn in the classroom. .
The project gives students the opportunity to work on something for an extended period of time as opposed to a shorter school project. While the courses focus on different areas of engineering, Osprey Racing allows students to connect everything they have learned. “There’s no classroom talking about what they’re doing,” Dr. Nuszkowski explained.
The cars also function as a marketing tool for the UNF and sponsor. Stratton believes the competition car and performance helps introduce UNF to potential students and employers to bring more attention to the university. “Racing cars are just giant advertisements for things that go fast and make funny noises,” he said.
Due to their competitive performance, engineering employers will attend UNF job fairs and recruit UNF students, giving team members the opportunity to showcase their skills and network. . “Employers watch how schools perform in design competitions,” Stratton said.
Stratton explained that last year’s team captain currently has an internship at Tesla in California, recruited due to competition.
After all their hard work, the team is hopeful for the competition this year. Whatever the outcome, Dr Nuszkowski thinks “the experience is the most valuable thing they get”.
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