UH Red Devils prepare to take off, despite bumps on the road
On your marks… Ready? Set. Go!
Where some students prefer a less hectic lifestyle, a group of four senior mechanical engineering technology students are looking to go as fast as possible.
Daulet Urkenbayev, Rajeev Bhattacharya, Jonathon Fulbright and Paul Orieukwu make up the UH Red Devils and are making a vehicle to enter into the Formula Hybrid Competition, one of the competitions in the Society of Automotive Engineer’s Collegiate Design Series, which will take place on April 27 in Loudon, N.H. The competition sees many teams from different universities build and test a formula hybrid vehicle. The team formed this past summer and has been hard at work since.
“The Formula Hybrid Series is well-known among engineering community, because it is one of the most challenging competitions in the SAE’s Collegiate Design Series,” Urkenbayev said. “The competition heavily requires teams to have knowledge and skills in mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.”
Urkenbayev, Orienukwu and Bhattacharya began their project in the summer of 2014 at a workshop designed to help them become familiar with the Formula Hybrid model by troubleshooting the vehicle of last year’s team, Team Hybrid. Team Hybrid was set to compete until electrical problems and time constraints held them back.
“(We) were not experienced enough with electrical systems, so the team was looking for someone with experience in electrical system,” Urkenbayev said. “The team found Jon, who had required knowledge and experience about the electrical system for the car. Jon was also an underclassman in Team Hybrid’s team, so he knew about the car more than any of us at that time.”
The Red Devils will be the first team from UH to participate in the competition. Beyond winning the competition, the team also hopes to bring UH into the spotlight among other frequent competitors.
“We would like to win the competition, but we stay realistic,” Fulbright said. “We will be the first team from UH to even race. That much will be a victory to me. I think what we’re really trying to do is get our school known by competing in this international competition.”
The road to the competition is anything but easy. With the difficulty of the competition comes a significant time commitment from each team member and at least 2,000 hours total will be spent on it. Add to this is the team’s relatively small size of four, compared to teams from other schools at ten and twenty.
“It’s almost like having a full-time job; it is hard to get to my other classes because there is always something that needs to be done,” Fulbright said. “I probably spend about 20 to 30 hours a week on something related to the project.”
The Formula Hybrid Competition’s formidable challenge is reflected in the numbers of participants. While other competitions in the SAE Design Series can see hundreds of teams competing, Formula Hybrid only has 35 slots, and even those have trouble filling up. This hasn’t deterred the Red Devils.
“The Formula Hybrid is also a very complex project that requires you to learn different engineering disciplines in a short period of time,” Urkenbayev said.
“It is very challenging and that is exactly what made me to join the team. Indeed, the project pushes me to the boundaries, I have never reached before.”
But it isn’t just about elevating themselves to a higher level. For the Red Devils, it is a chance to apply what they have learned to their passion, and for them to take their passion and make a name for themselves.
“I personally joined Team Red Devils because of my passion for cars, engineering and understanding how much goes into car development,” Bhattacharya said. “I wanted to apply my mechanical knowledge gained while in the military to the engineering learned in the MECT program.”
The team hopes their hard work allows future teams to form and that their work serves a similar purpose to what Team Hybrid’s project served for them.
“We hope our accomplishments in this upcoming competition will inspire next teams to participate in the projects like SAE Formula Hybrid,” Urkenbayev said.
The Red Devils are also always looking for people that can help contribute. While the Red Devils have advanced knowledge of how to build the car, students with backgrounds in programming could help take the project even further.
“I believe getting involved with the project is the best way UH students can help,” Bhattacharya said. “I know we lack computer programing knowledge, and many UH students may have the knowledge to help the team succeed. It will also help students with a real-world application in programming the hybrid system to communicate with the internal combustion engine and multiple controllers.”
The Red Devils also encourage UH students to help in any way they can, not only with getting all of the equipment they need, but to help them get there name recognized. The team is currently accepting donations through their website.
“I don’t expect college students to have a lot of extra cash,” Fulbright said. “They can still help by getting excited about the project and spreading the word about it. The more people are talking about it the more likely someone who can sponsor will hear of us… We’re doing it for the school. It’s their school too. We want people to be impressed by what UH students can do.”