Rutgers organization revs up for new school year


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Photo by Nikhilesh De |

An organization at Rutgers aims to provide more opportunities to apply the information engineering students learn.

The organization, Rutgers Formula Racing, is led by Ely Nazar, a School of Engineering senior. RFR is composed of students in different fields of engineering and is most well known for the race cars that it builds.

“It’s really a way to further our education and it doesn’t matter that we build a race car. It’s not about the race car, we could be building wheelbarrows and we would still be doing this,” Nazar said.

Getting the opportunity to learn and work alongside like-minded individuals is the goal of the organization. Having members who want to work hard and set themselves apart from the rest of the pack while having a good time is what RFR is all about, he said.

RFR is broken up into smaller, related projects, called sub-teams and then further split into the various disciplines in automotive engineering. This is similar to what a real company does, as it helps streamline the process and avoid confusion, Nazar said.

Some of the sub-teams include chassis and suspension, power-train engineering, brakes, aerodynamics, electronics and ergonomics. Each sub-team is charged with a task and is led by one person who is charged with making all decisions for the sub-team, Nazar said.

The organization is comprised of about 100 members, up from about 30 members last year, said Matthew Watts, a School of Engineering junior who is working on the chassis.

Building a race car is no small feat. Being a member of RFR is a heavy time commitment and certainly a difficult task, Nazar said. As a result, many people end up leaving the organization because it is not a casual commitment.

“We’ve all kind of had our friendships formed from blood, sweat and tears. Before competition we don’t sleep for days at a time,” he said. “So before we really accept you into the team we have to see that you’re willing to put in the time.”

Each member is recommended to meet with their sub-team about 10 hours per week to get involved, as basic meetings only get members up to speed about the basics of what is currently happening, Nazar said.

Returning members commit even more of their time to the organization, about 20 or 30 hours per week minimum. Those hours significantly increase over the summer, Nazar said.

“The meetings might be three hours per week but that’s the bare minimum. Beyond that, it depends," Watts said. "A new member might put in four to five (hours), but as you get more involved you might spend more time. We don’t really keep count at some point."

The team carries out this project until May, where they compete against other teams in two different types of events. The whole competition is not just about producing any car, but building a car for a client, Nazar said.

Prior to the competition, the team does final tuning on the car. At that point, they hope to have finished testing various biases or parameters that could influence how the car moves, Nazar said.

James Vertes, a School of Engineering junior, is involved with the brakes of the car and is familiar with the testing the team does on it.

“Temperatures, range, road conditions, those are all factors. You would always test for bias,” he said. “It just changes from each situation to the next.”

One type of event at the competition, the static event, is composed of a cost report, a business report and an engineering design. The cost and business reports are presentations to judges about how well the car hits a target cost, Nazar said.

The engineering design portion has the team members judged by industry professionals and makes them defend their design and prove that they knew what they were doing when designing the car. The professionals are sent by companies like SpaceX, Tesla, Boeing and Ford, he said.

The other event is the dynamic event, where the car is made to do a figure eight, an autocross lap and an endurance event, Nazar said. The car is judged by the time it takes to complete each event and gets extra points for fuel efficiency in the endurance event.

The Rutgers Formula Racing is partially funded by the Engineering Governing Council and the School of Engineering, but is mostly supported through fundraising, Nazar said.

A majority of the car parts, about 90 to 95 percent, are built by the team’s own machine shop. Some companies, like Yamaha, donate parts for the car. Yamaha has donated parts such as a pair of engines, he said.

RFR tests their car by emulating what they would experience in a competition. They test to see the car’s acceleration and how well it does the figure eight. The endurance event is heavily focused on as it is worth more than any other event, he said.

Redesigns for the car occasionally take place through the year, as no car is ever perfect. The team has to constantly innovate since ceasing to do so will leave the team behind, Nazar said.

“You only have a year, you don’t have a lot of time to test the car,” he said. “Even a normal race car has so many man-hours put into it and we don’t have that kind of time. We’re in school and studying and some of us have jobs.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article said Rutgers Formula Racing was named Rutgers Formula Racecar. Also, the article said Yamaha provided carbon fiber to the team.


Harshel Patel

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