A team of 23 UCF engineering students traveled to Brooklyn, Mich., to participate in the largest competition of collegiate auto crafting inthe world, placing 39th overall out of 120 teams.

The Society of Automotive Engineers at UCF built an autocross-racing, one-person vehicle from scratch to represent the university at the Formula SAE Michigan.

The three-day competition began May 11 and provided real-world challenges of systems engineering, design and problem-solving for students trying to work in the auto industry.

This year, the team earned its second-best finish in school history.

For the Formula SAE chapter at UCF, this competition holds the most significance because of the great deal of prestige associated with their participation.

The team paid a $2,000 entry fee, earned through donations and fundraisers, to tackle competition from all over the world including such countries as Singapore, Venezuela and Japan.

The students’ performances were tested by automotive experts from General Motors, Ford and Honda — three companies seeking to hire new post-grad talent.

Formula SAE at UCF placed 14th in the cost report event, in which the jury discussed the vehicle’s cost calculation based on the manufacturing materials.

According to T.J. Yankee, UCF Formula SAE public relations spokesman, the total cost of the car came to $17,000.

SAE placed 15th in the acceleration event, in which the race car was evaluated on its accelerating ability from a standing start over a distance of 75 meters.

Yankee said the team began planning to construct the car during the summer of 2010 because of all the complications that can occur with having to build a car from nothing.

“It’s really difficult to be able to create a car with raw materials that must perform the challenges imposed at the event,” Yankee said. “The hardest thing is to manage the time between doing well in school and building the car.”

The student club met twice a week for a year despite their academic schedules. They dedicated as much time as possible to finish the car and completed the task just a few weeks before the competition.

“For a year, all they lived for was this contest,” said Corinne Jackson, a senior exceptional education major and the girlfriend of one of the 23 SAE members who traveled to Michigan. “Every time I met the team for lunch, all they would talk about was the competition.”

Yankee, as well as 27 of his teammates, also participated in last year’s event.

“We knew this year would be different for us because of the experience we had,” Yankee said.

Jacob Herbst, UCF Formula SAE team leader, is satisfied with the outcome of the event because the team never had any help from professors or mentors, and for the amount of funding collected, the results exceeded members’ expectations.

“I can speak on behalf of Formula SAE [at UCF] that for what we had, we did extraordinarily well,” Herbst said.

For the competition, SAE received $8,000 from SGA, while the remaining $9,000 came from individual efforts.

Next year, the club plans on finishing SAE in the top 25.

“We already began planning for next year’s event,” Herbst said. “The knowledge from this year will help us do better next year.”

Source: Central Florida Future, SAE races in man-made car, Knights place 39th out of 120-team field, by Salo Steinvortz, staff writer. Published: Sunday, June 5, 2011;  updated: Sunday, June 5, 2011 19:06