Schulich racing teams put designs to test

By Riley Hill

From June 6–9, teams from the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering will test vehicles they built in the Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series, competing against teams from Canada and the United States. The series features several design competitions for different classes of vehicles, with U of C teams fielding a racing vehicle, an off-road vehicle and an electric motorcycle.  

The series takes place at multiple locations across the United States. U of C teams will compete in Lincoln, Nebraska; Rochester, New York; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Over 80 schools will participate in the events.

The winners of the competition will be chosen based on the vehicles’ performance on a series of tests and the decision of a panel of expert judges.

Recent U of C mechanical engineering graduate Kathleen Szymanek is the logistics captain for the Schulich off-road vehicle, a small white car resembling a dune buggy. She described the process of bringing the car from its initial designs to being fully operational.

“Design for the car started in September and went until Christmas time. There was a lot of work in making sure that it met all the rules for the competition,” said Szymanek. “But once the designs were done during December, it was just lots of work on the construction.”

Most of the rules for the vehicles’ design are in regards to safety, as the teams compete head-to-head in a string of driving competitions. This includes a four-hour endurance race, where teams share the track to see whose vehicle can cover the greatest distance in four hours.

Szymanek estimates that the team paid $10,000 for the vehicle, with most of the costs covered by the Schulich School of Engineering. Further expenses were paid for by team sponsors.

Sean Shaunsidhu was the team leader for the Schulich racing car. The vehicle is a modified version of last year’s model, which was completely redesigned in 2011. With pride in his voice, Shaunsidhu said that in many respects, their vehicle is comparable to a sports car.

“It accelerates like a Corvette, handles like a Porsche and is really light. It’s like a bike with four wheels,” said Shaunsidhu. “At this point, we don’t have a proper track to test the car’s top speed, but we know that it’s powerful.”

He estimates that the total cost of the racing car is over $60,000.

When asked why he chose to participate in the competition, Shaunsidhu’s answer was blunt. 

“If anybody gets in the car and starts going straight really fast, they’ll see why we did it.”

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