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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Engineering students build race car for competition

Engineering club
Jason Yu, junior mechanical engineering student, and Tyler Gellinck, senior mechatronic engineering student, talk about parts for the frame. Photo by Risa Johnson

Rock music is blasting and the scent of metal and grease fills the air.

A small group of men are bent over a small car frame, speaking in the language of engineers.

They occasionally hold up small parts and gesture with their hands about how they will work and where they go. Laughter fills the room and it is obvious that they are enjoying spending a late night at their workshop in the Plumas courtyard.

This group of about 20 students are part of the engineering club, Formula Society of Automotive Engineers. They are building a race car for a competition in Nebraska in June against 80 other schools.

Joshua Miranda, a senior mechatronic engineering major, is president of Formula SAE and has been a member of the club since it started three years ago.

“I knew very little about cars before I was on the team,” Miranda said. “It forces you to learn things you wouldn’t learn in class.”

“I’m getting to take what I’m learning from my classes and use them for something practical.”
– Sam Rabellino, sophomore mechatronic engineering major.

The group creates all parts from scratch, besides the engine and wheels, he said. They are cheaper and easier to make in-house, because they all go together.

Miranda designed most of the model, so it is made to fit him.

The club had to take the race car apart because some small pieces broke, but they were racing it in the dorm parking lot on the weekends, Miranda said. They plan to race at the Chico Municipal Airport landing strip when the car is up and running again.

Sam Rabellino, a sophomore mechatronic engineering major, joined the club last year, when the car was still in the design process.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Rabellino said. “I’m getting to take what I’m learning from my classes and use them for something practical.”

He usually spends about 10 hours per week in the workshop.

“We’re going to get probably about 60 horsepower out of it,” Rabellino said. “That still is plenty because we have a 600 pound car.”

The event in Nebraska is made up of different competitions including: the skid pad, which is a sprint around a figure eight, the endurance race, which is a time trial, and a competition for best design.

“Fifty percent of schools don’t even finish the endurance race because parts break and they can’t fix them,” Rabellino said. “So, that’s a good goal to shoot for.”

Tyler Gellinck, a junior mechanical engineering major, enjoys applying what he learns in classes in a hands-on way.

“It’s fun — it’s a good way to take a break from studying,” Gellinck said.

The most rewarding part of the club is seeing the race car work after all the effort the group put in, he said.

“I got to ride in it a few times. That was pretty exciting,” Gellinck said. “It’s all built here by students.”

Risa Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or @risapisa on Twitter.

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