Villanova students showcase 2015 competition car at Philadelphia Auto Show



Maria McGeary

This past week a group of Villanova’s brightest mechanical engineers showcased their 2015 VU 07 racecar at the Philadelphia Auto show. Each year the group creates a racecar, from scratch, and competes at the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) at the Michigan International Speedway. You can even find some of the students testing out the racecar throughout the year right outside of CEER.

“SAE sends out a series of rules from which we are to build a car, from scratch,” David Rudy, a junior mechanical engineer, explained. “And then we race it up in Michigan against 120 other schools worldwide.”

Villanova took 18th place at the competition last May, waiting just a week before beginning the design of this year’s vehicle. The design process takes place over the summer, and the group reconvenes immediately in the fall to begin the hands-on work with its new members. The students use computer aided design program, CAD for short to help create their racecar. Adjustments and test drives are done on the car up until the day of the competition.

During the semester, a retired vehicle remains on display in the lobby of the Engineering building, creating a highly sought attraction for campus tours. This was what attracted Rudy, who joined the team his freshman year, and hasn’t left the garage since. “I saw a nice looking racecar upstairs in CEER, and I thought, I’m gonna join that,” Rudy said. Although most students who work on the cars are engineers, anyone from any major is welcome to help in the construction of the racecar. Having this type of experience on your resume is something that will make you a unique candidate for any job that you apply to. 

During the semester, members of the team can often be found in the garage facilities in the lower levels of CEER, working in groups on different aspects of the project. Many spend over 40 hours per week working on the project, in addition to classes and other social commitments. “Because, racecar,” Rudy said, when asked why he is so passionate about this project. “Pretty much the answer to any question like that is ‘because racecar.’”

 The chassis team works on the car’s frame and frame components. Driver controls includes steering, pedals, shifting, and seat, and the power train team works on the engine, drive train, and electrical.

This year the team also implemented a business committee. Registration for the competition costs $2,200. The group has a set budge of approximately $55,000, half of which is granted by the College of Engineering. This amount is supplemented by funds raised by the group. Sponsors include Ford, McCarthy Tire and Automotive Center, Royal Purple and Bally-Ribbon Mills.

Some things learned in class can be applied to the project, but much of the research is left to the students. “They’re not going to teach me in class how to weld,” Rudy said. “That’s just a thing I had to learn on my own.”

Much of the technique is passed down through the experiences of older members. “You learn a lot of theories in class but you won’t learn anything if you don’t apply them,” Rudy said.