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Race Car Team Ready to Vroom!

Student Team Off to Nebraska for Collegiate Competition
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After spending more than 10,000 hours to redesign and rebuild the Titan formula-style race car, Cal State Fullerton’s student racing team is off to the June 21-24 SAE International competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, expected to attract 80 collegiate teams from around the world.

This year’s racing entry boasts a new design that focuses on a reliable and predictable car for the amateur racer. A two-cylinder engine, rather than a four-cylinder engine used in the past, makes the vehicle lighter, creating constant power, which is more suited for the nonprofessional racer, said Vincent Nguyen, the team’s project manager and chief engineer. The vehicle also is 60 pounds lighter than the previous year’s car.

Since the car is significantly different from last year’s entry, the team’s goal is to test the new design, identify improvements and place high in the standings, said Nguyen, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in May. In a record-setting feat, the best finish for a Titan entry was 12th place in 2014.

To help with the cost of building the race car, students received funding and gifts, including in-kind donations from industry partners and $11,000 in cash donations, Nguyen said.

The competition provides a platform to teach students how to manage a project and work on an interdisciplinary team, noted faculty adviser Joseph Piacenza, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

“The primary benefit of this project is the interdisciplinary nature of the competition, where students learn hands-on design and manufacturing skills such as CAD — computer-aided design software — machining, composites, electronic hardware and software integration,” Piacenza said.

Over 40 seniors and underclassmen from multidisciplinary areas in engineering, as well as business and art majors, are on the team. About half earned their degrees in May. On the team, students took on various jobs — from working on aerodynamics to thermodynamics to creating a business plan, which is part of the competition.

“It provides an environment that promotes creativity and initiative, where you take everything you learned in your academic career and truly put it to the test,” added Nguyen, one of the four drivers. “Plus, we get to find out what we really like to do in our profession.”