University of Texas at Arlington
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University of Texas at Arlington: High-performance Automotive Engineering education

The smell of exhaust and the whine of high-performance engines are common at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA).

Each year, students on UTA’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineering (FSAE) team design, build and race formula racing cars from scratch, continuing a tradition dating back more than 30 years. The programme has claimed innovative changes in the automotive industry, including moveable wings to reduce drag, a hybrid racecar, and an all-electric FSAE racecar.

“Every year we start in our lab designing each component from the ground up, putting it in CAD so we can see how each part is going to look before we actually manufacture it,” Charles Graham, a senior in the Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering Department and the team’s chief engineer, told The College Tour in a segment about the team.

University of Texas at Arlington

UTA’s FSAE team gives students real insights on what it’s like to run a professional race team. Source: University of Texas at Arlington

Team members hail from all over campus, with majors including engineering, liberal arts, architecture and science. Established in 1982, the programme is one of the most successful in the world, having won eight championships in the US, as well as titles in the UK, Australia and Japan. The team was ranked fifth of 513 teams in the world – and best in the US – in the 2014 Formula Student Combustion World Rankings.

UTA’s FSAE team is run much like a professional race team, with sub-teams for every major component and a business side that signs and maintains sponsors that provide either in-kind donations or funding for parts, supplies and competitions. The team takes pride in its ability to develop professionals across all fields, and members work their way up from being a new member to a team lead.

“There aren’t many student organisations that allow you to apply what you’ve learned in a classroom to a real-life company, which is what this is essentially,” Graham said.

“It’s very scary at first. My first week I was terrified, but a few years later I’m the chief engineer and everything is just so clear to me. I feel like I can build anything.”

The team’s home base is the Arnold E. Petsche Centre for Automotive Engineering, a sprawling section on the first floor of one of the engineering classroom buildings that boasts a showroom for many of the team’s cars, its myriad trophies, and offices and workspaces where team members meet to design each year’s car, work through engineering problems, and host VIP visits from sponsors, legislators and supporters. The team has its own machine shop and composites manufacturing facility, as well as access to wind tunnels for testing.

Jocelyn Carrasquillo, a senior aerospace engineering manager who serves as the team’s business manager, says that she has gained confidence in her abilities since joining the team.

“Everyone learns about everything on the car. You work on different systems and find what you like. I started in composites and now I’m the business lead,” she said. “We’re always trying to see what we can do to make the car different and see how we can improve. The best thing is that everyone is supportive in helping you achieve your goals. We push each other and lift each other up to go beyond our limits and get better every time.”

UTA hosts the Texas Autocross on campus annually, where university teams from across North America compete against the clock, not for prize money, but for bragging rights on the track.

University of Texas at Arlington

Source: University of Texas at Arlington

Bob Woods, a UTA professor of mechanical engineering and adviser to the FSAE programme and the Dr. Robert Woods Distinguished Chair in Automotive Engineering Endowed by Paul E. Andrews Jr., has been involved in every Texas Autocross since its inception.

“What is great about this event is that team members share ideas with each other. There’s a camaraderie among the nearly 400 students who will come to this Texas Autocross,” Woods said. “It is also impressive to see so many different designs of the cars and the enthusiasm that the students bring to this project. The Autocross is a great opportunity to see what FSAE is all about.”

Universities sending teams to the Texas Autocross in 2023 included UT Arlington, UT Austin, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State University, Louisiana State University, University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, University of Missouri, UT San Antonio, UT Dallas, Wichita State University, University of Houston and Texas State University. A total of 38 cars raced on the course, which is modelled on the 1998 FSAE endurance track.

UTA was also the only US team to compete in the recent Global Electric Vehicle Challenge, a two-phase competition involving more than a dozen international teams. UTA placed third in the aerodynamics category; second in the electromechanical design and controls category; second in the electrical systems, battery and battery management category; fourth in the quality of report category; and fourth place overall.

Engineering students interested in automotive engineering may choose to complete a Certificate in Automotive Engineering, which includes courses in electronics, solid and fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, and structures. The College of Engineering also includes certificates in Unmanned Vehicle Systems and Embedded Systems that might be of interest to students interested in automotive engineering.

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