UNM’s race car design team may not have the resources of its competitors, but the engineering students say they are ready to face off against colleges from around the world next week.
“It’s about learning how to engineer a product and build it,” UNM Professor of Mechanical Engineering John Russell said about the school’s team.
This is a tough lesson UNM engineering students practice over three semesters before heading to an international competition where they will race their Formula-style, student-built car against 80 other colleges from around the globe.
Rainy weather didn’t keep UNM’s Society of Automotive Engineers from one of its final practice runs Saturday before next week’s competition in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“We don’t get much rain testing, living in New Mexico. Having rain possibly in Nebraska, it’s really good for us today and the car’s running pretty well,” the team’s project manager and UNM senior Jonathan Abeyta said.
They do not have the resources many of their high-financed competitors do, including workshop space.
“We have 2,200 square feet and not a whole lot of machinery,” Russell added.
“Some of our competitors have major sponsors that they get to pretty much buy whatever they want, make all the mistakes that they want, whereas on our budget we’re very limited and sometimes get one chance to build the right component,” Abeyta stated.
They have the 20-year program legacy with experienced mentors and the talent.
The school said the team has been ranked as high as fifth best out of 125 in the U.S. and number 18 out of 500 in the world.
Russell said that level of skill is part of the reason why this competition isn’t just about racing.
There are recruiters from aerospace companies there, too.
“The two biggest recruiters you’ll find there are SpaceX and Tesla,” Russell said.
This spring, the engineering department received a $1.5 million gift from an alum for a new shop and facility, giving them more space for building cars for future competitions.