BROOKLYN - A recent graduate from Onaway did well at a global competition to design and race small, lightweight cars.
Alex Fullerton, a freshman at Saginaw Valley State University, placed second in the acceleration competition at the Formula SAE competition at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. The event was held by the Society for Automotive Engineers in May. Overall, SVSU's team placed 51st out of 120 universities competing.
The event, which spanned four days, included three static competitions and four dynamic ones, Fullerton said. He was the driver for two, including acceleration. Others were skid pad, four laps on a figure-eight course to test how each vehicle handles, auto-cross and endurance. The team members also had to tell judges how much it cost to build their car, how they designed it and presented a business plan to make the car.
Before a team can do any of this, their car must pass a grueling technical inspection to ensure it meets the rules, Fullerton said. A lot of teams struggle at this, and when SVSU's vehicle passed, it was a brilliant moment.
"It's suspenseful, it's a big relief when you pass technical inspection," he said. "Your car is very heavily scrutinized. It's an adrenaline rush when you finally pass it."
Fullerton worked on the car's suspension, he said, and next year he'll be the suspension system leader. This year's car had a steel tube space frame with carbon fiber sandwich panels and four-point independent suspension. It was powered by a 600-cubic centimeter motorcycle engine, and weighed 433 pounds without a driver.
"It goes pretty fast," he said.
Fullerton got involved with the team after finding out about it during orientation, he said. He's majoring in mechanical engineering, and Saginaw Valley has Cardinal Formula Racing to build competition vehicles for Formula SAE. The director of the university's mechanical engineering department leads the team, and told Fullerton and a handful of other freshmen what the team does.
The team is all-volunteer, and around 30 students work on the car, Fullerton said. Some come and go, and about 15 of them went down to the MIS for the competition.
The team builds a new car every year, and Fullerton is already involved with building next year's car, he said. He's already looking forward to next year's competition after his experience this time.
"I loved it, it was probably one of the best experiences I've had," he said.