St. Thomas’ Formula 1 Society of Automotive Engineers Race Car Building Club began in 2009 with just two members who wanted to build a race car, but today the club has expanded to 10 full-time members and recently moved into a new design lab.
The club is currently working hard to finish its year-long task of producing a race car to compete in the Collegiate Design Series at the Michigan International Speedway at the end of the school year.
When the club was founded, its original members, Stew Kern and John Halloran, shared their passion the right way, according to St. Thomas alumnus and former club member Patrick Connelly.
“The starting members could have worked with a small team to build a race car and then graduate, but instead they created the club. They got a room, they got the funding and set up events. They didn’t want the club to end when they graduated,” Connelly said.
The club’s first room on campus was the Prototype Development Lab in the basement of the O’Shaugnessy Science Hall. Although it was nice to have the space, it might not have been the best possible option for the club on campus. According to members, the space was small and the lighting wasn’t ideal.
This year, the club moved into a completely new location in the Facility Design Center on South Campus, which has better lighting and more space. Club President Luke Halloran said the new location is important to the group’s productivity level.
“The fact that we don’t have to take (the car) apart to be able to test between adjustments is huge. It allows the club to concentrate on finishing tasks rather than figuring out how they took something apart,” Halloran said.
Although the club has 10 full-time members, there is no shortage of time spent in the lab. Halloran said the members spend more hours at school working on the car than they do at home.
The ultimate goal of the club is to build a race car and compete at the end of the semester, but Connelly, who now works at 3M, said the the investment you make in yourself will most likely pay off after graduation.
“Companies want to hire engineers who have committed to proving their abilities and solving problems. It can be hard to get in doors at certain places, but SAE members get hired quickly. There’s a large culture out there of previous members,” Connelly said.
Halloran and Connelly both said the club is great because it gives students a chance to practice and apply what they have learned in the classroom and use it in a real life setting.
Last year the club’s membership numbers were down, which prevented the team from traveling to Michigan. After not competing last year, Halloran said he’s just happy the group is making the trip.
“I’ve only been to Michigan to compete once, and the competition two years ago is my most memorable experience with the club,” Halloran said. “We’re all really excited to get back there.”
The Formula 1 SAE team from St. Thomas will compete in the Collegiate Design Series at Michigan International Speedway May 13-16.
Travis Swan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.