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BYU-Idaho’s SAE Racing Team Enters Their First Formula Hybrid Electric Competition

Formula Team 2024 1.jpg

The Society of Automotive Engineering at BYU-Idaho is helping students take their learning outside of the classroom.

For the past year and a half, the SAE team has been preparing to compete in their first Formula Hybrid Electric competition. They returned from their first competition on May 3, 2024, and that is only the beginning.

Formula Hybrid Electric is the most complex and dynamic event of the SAE Collegiate Design Series. The competition is run by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth and draws undergraduate and graduate students from across the United States.

In the competition, teams collaboratively design and build a formula-style hybrid or electric-only racecar from the frame up. The teams are made up of a variety of engineering disciplines, with BYU-Idaho’s team including students from Automotive Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Welding Engineering, Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Electrical Engineering.

Each car is tested holistically throughout the process, from project management to suspension and handling. “Part of the competition is [the students] have to present their ideas, how they manage the project, how they design the project, and how all those things went,” said Josh Tollefson, factory advisor for the SAE formula e-racing team. “Then when they have their car, they can go race it and repeat different events.”

Between planning, building, and driving, planning takes a lot more time. “It’s so expensive that you can’t buy the wrong part,” said Alexander Berryhill, the SAE software team lead. “You need to get it right the first time.” To make sure they get it right, they use a variety of simulations and calculations in industry software to test everything before they do it.

Another challenge is keeping the team and project organized. “My goal, other than engineering, is to make sure we keep the team,” said Chuck Taylor, team lead. “We had a huge influx of students and we were just like, ‘Perfect, how do we keep them?’ If there was something we needed to assemble the car, we tried to assign it to one of the new kids. We’ve been here for a while, we’ve been through some pretty boring days, but a lot of these new kids want that excitement.”

Formula Hybrid Electric competitors work on the same car year after year, working with other teams and industry experts to continually improve. “There’s a lot of learning, just being humble and learning from other students that are learning the same things as you,” said Chris Taylor, the team’s project manager and mechanical team lead. “We’re taking what they learn and multiplying what we learn.”

This year, the BYU-Idaho SAE team competed in the design event and project management event. They won a learning award for the electrical team with the most potential, which gave them two in-depth textbooks on building their car that not every team has access to.

Next year, they hope to have their car finished and ready to race. “For most teams that are there with a car competing, it’s taken four or five years to finally get to the point where they actually have a car to compete with,” said Tollefson. “So, our goal is by 2025, with our next competition, we have a running car. That would be only two years.”

The Formula Hybrid Electric is an incredible opportunity for the BYU-Idaho SAE team that goes beyond the finish line. The hands-on experience the team is gaining will translate directly into the job market.

“Employers want to see that you actually care about what you’re studying and that you’re involved and that you’re willing to put in extra effort,” said Dylan Hansen, the electrical team lead. “They like to see that experience that you had, you know how to work on a team and work with other people, that you know how to meet deadlines, that you actually can apply these technical skills to a real application rather than just theoretical problems.”

“It’s about as real-world experience as you get,” said Chris Taylor.

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