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Purdue finishes 11th at international Formula SAE competition

An open-wheel race car designed and built by a team of Purdue students drove to a top-11 finish at Formula SAE Michigan, an intercollegiate event consisting of 120 schools from around the world. Organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the event took place at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI.



Since 1981, Formula SAE has challenged university students around the world to design, build, test, and race an open-wheel race car.  Teams are judged on their car’s design, cost, and on-track performance in a series of dynamic events, culminating in a 22-kilometer endurance race.

“Formula SAE is an intense and demanding year-long journey,” said Todd Nelson, Assistant Director of Senior Design in Mechanical Engineering, and the team’s faculty advisor.  “The students begin the design immediately following the prior year’s competition.  They spend the summer and majority of the fall designing the vehicle’s chassis, suspension, powertrain, aerodynamics, and drivetrain.  Once design is complete, they begin building the car which requires an extensive amount of machining, welding, and carbon fiber fabrication.  After the car is built, they test it to validate the design and tune it for maximum performance.”

“Competition weekend is a stressful time, because the students have dedicated so much time and they want the vehicle to perform well,” said Nelson.  120 university teams gathered at Michigan International Speedway over the weekend of May 9-12, including schools from Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, and Venezuela.  “All these teams have prepared for this all year long, and once their cars pass inspection to verify they meet all the competition rules, then the fun begins.”

This year’s race was marred by cold temperatures and constant rainfall.  But despite the conditions, Purdue’s car successfully completed the 22-kilometer endurance race, finishing 7th.  Based on all criteria, Purdue finished 11th overall and they were the 4th highest ranked American team to compete.

“I am so proud of the students on our team,” said Nelson.  “They really poured their heart and soul into this car, and they earned this incredible finish.  Experience in this program is what makes them the most-sought after employees that go on to make an incredible impact on the world during their careers.”

Writer: Jared Pike, 765-496-0374,

Source: Todd Nelson,