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Northwestern Formula Racing Gets Boost from the Farley Center

Northwestern Formula Racing got a head start in its journey to the 2014 formula style vehicle competitions thanks to $5,000 donated from the Farley Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. With those funds, the student organization purchased new computer workstations, which will allow more team members to work together simultaneously, speeding up their automotive design process.

"We felt compelled to support the students for a number of reasons," said Michael Marasco, the director of the Farley Center. "You never know what kind of new business could come from such a dedicated group of students, and I knew in my heart that it was something our endower, Jim Farley, would want us to do."

Monitors for new formula racing workstationsJim Farley, the entrepreneurship center's namesake, passed away in August 2012.

At the start of the school year, Northwestern Formula Racing only had one full workstation at their design headquarters in the basement of the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center.

"When you've got a team of probably 30 people that are actually going to be going through design process, having only one person being able to come in here and work on a good desktop computer really isn't productive," said Jacob Buser, Northwestern Formula Racing's chief engineer and a senior studying mechanical engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering. "People need to either work on a laptop that really isn't as powerful enough to handle the size files for analysis that we use, or they have to go off to a computer lab where we can't interact with each other."

The team headquarters now has four desktop workstations with 4GHz quad processors and double monitors. "Having enough screen space to be able to work properly is a huge advantage over what we had previously," Buser said.

The group had a palpable need for more powerful computers.  "All of the vehicle teams' computing requirements can really push the limits of what university computing resources can provide," said Michael Beltran, a lecturer in McCormick's mechanical engineering department and Northwestern Formula Racing's faculty advisor. "With these powerful workstations, the teams will be able to design and simulate parts extremely quickly, which will allow them to move much quicker during their design phase."

Being able to virtually test parts rather than rebuilding and retesting actual parts saves time and money. "A lot of it is computer-aided design and also stress analysis," says the team's assistant manager and McCormick sophomore, Alex Lee.

McCormick senior Will Stark pulls up design for formula racing car.

Northwestern Formula Racing is working to take its fifth car to the Michigan International Speedway for the Formula SAE Collegiate Design Series in May 2014. The team was founded in 2006 and took its first car to Formula SAE in 2008 placing second among first-year teams and 37th in design. Thirty-five undergraduate students comprise the current team.

“We spend fall quarter designing the car, winter quarter actually manufacturing things in the shop, and spring quarter driving and testing the car before we take it to competition,” Buser said.

Lee and Buser are grateful that the Farley Center's support allows them to spend more time on designing and building their car and less time seeking out funds from corporate and other outside sources.

"Something like an infrastructure, that's something that a lot of companies don't necessarily want to support," Buser said. "They want to see something that goes on the car. They want to say, 'Well I purchased these tires or I purchased this engine for you.'"

"Buying computers is just as important. So being able to get funding from within the school to really support the infrastructure has been really key to allowing the team to grow."

Northwestern Formula Racing cars
Northwestern Formula Racing Team

Follow Northwestern Formula Racing on Twitter: @NUfsae

And, check out their Facebook page.

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