In room 102 of the Haultain Building, a group of skilled engineers and avid athletes meet to discuss the matters of one of the University of Toronto’s fastest-moving teams.U of T’s Formula One race car team, or FSAE, consists of 25 students who work together to build a new Formula One car each year from scratch. The team invites students from all disciplines to join — both technical and safety skills are taught to newcomers each year and no previous experience is required.
Amanda Santos, a third-year mechanical engineering student and FSAE’s Team Manager, acts as a liaison between the team and the outside world. She is the team’s main contact person and is in charge of the business side of operations while also helping to build the car.
“I joined last year, at the beginning of my second year at U of T, and have been team manager ever since,” said Santos.
A skilled photographer, Santos showed the team pictures she had taken at an event they hosted and she was immediately recruited into her current role.
The members of the FSAE team, Santos included, are completely devoted to the Formula One car.
“When we aren’t in class, we’re in the shop working on it,” said Santos. “When I
September marks the beginning of building season for the team, although a mock car is built of wood during the summer months in preparation. Testing season begins in February.
The team is granted permission to use certain testing areas around Toronto. The tests are conducted on weekends and they are called “shake-downs.” They check to see whether parts of the car break while it is being driven. During testing season, third and fourth year students get a chance to test drive the car — whoever drives best and is fastest gets the opportunity to drive during competition season.
Come May, the athletes gear up for competition season which runs until August.
“During competition season, a total of ten competitions are held around the world, but we only have the funding required to attend two: FSAE East in Michigan, which includes 120 teams, most [of whom] are from the United States, and Formula Student Germany, which includes two Canadian teams — U of T and ETS [a technology school affiliated with the University of Quebec] — and many European teams,” said Santos.
Last year the U of T team couldn’t make it to Detroit for the FSAE East competition. It was the first time in 11 years that they hadn’t gone.
“Not going to Detroit was devastating. We had a new car made of carbon fibre which operated on a single cylinder engine, but it had not been well-tested. Instead we attended the competition as spectators,” said Santos.
According to Santos, however, by the time the competition in Germany rolled around, the team was completely ready.
“The car was well-tested this time — we tested it every day. We were very happy to have finished all events because many teams don’t even finish!” she said
An FSAE competition consists of two types of events — static and dynamic. Static events include design presentation, where the car is presented to judges who assess its design; marketing, where each business team must attempt to sell the car to investors; and cost reports, where each team must present a report of all costs associated with the building of the car.
The three dynamic events include an 11km autocross, which is a combination event that includes turns, slopes, and obstacles on the race track; endurance, which is a 22km version of autocross; and acceleration, a race in a straight line.
Although U of T’s FSAE team placed 33rd overall at the Formula Student Germany competition, it is not at the level it once was in 2008 when it was ranked fifth in the world.
“After 2008, we switched to a new engine,” said Santos. “More marks were going to be attributed to Fuel Economy, so we had to switch from a 3-cylinder to a 1-cylinder engine.
“Also, we tried the carbon fibre car. Carbon fibre is what actual Formula One cars are made of, so we wanted to try it. However, it is a finicky material and we don’t have the facilities to build a carbon fibre car at U of T. In the end we realized that it was better to work with steel, which is what we are doing this year. At U of T we have the facilities required to work with steel.”
Next year, the team hopes to place between 10th and 15th at the Formula Student Germany competition. They also hope to beat ETS, the only Canadian school that continues to beat them in competition.
“We would love to beat ETS. They are a very skilled team and it would be great to beat them so that we can officially be the best team in Canada,” said Santos.
In addition to attending competitions, FSAE hosted their own event on Sept 18.
U of T’s “Shoot-Out,” as such events are called, lasted from 2 a.m. until 5 p.m. and was attended by 350 people and 22 teams from across North America. Santos organized the entire event, hiring volunteers, acquiring sponsorship, renting buses, inviting teams, and managing the website.
“Four months of planning paid off,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for FSAE teams from across North America to meet and discuss Formula One. Overall, it was an amazing event.”