The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Engineering students to rev up new race car

A team of CSUN engineering students plan to manufacture a vehicle designed for the weekend racer that will compete in the annual Formula Student Automotive Engineers competition in May 2006.

The CSUN SAE team, which consists of senior engineering students, is currently working on a design project.

“One of the best parts of the project is competing and seeing not only your finished car, but the other 139 schools and comparing your stuff to theirs,” said Ricardo Valdez, FSAE financial manager.

The team, Matador Motorsports, will take over nine months to produce a go-cart racing-style car, and must capture the technology and style of a formula one car.

Additionally, students must account for all aspects of the creating process, including safety, design, time and cost-effectiveness, before competing among 140 other schools. Students will dedicate several hours throughout the school year to develop the winning car.

The cost of the car is provided by corporate sponsors. One of the largest sponsors is HAAS Automation.

Gene Haas, president of HAAS Machines and a business alumnus, donated $5,000 to the Computer-Numeric Control Lathe and Mill each year, which enable the team to build and manufacture parts quickly and with less mistakes and waste. The machines are stored in the engineering lab at CSUN that bears Haas’ name.

“I believe Mr. Haas donates each year because he feels a connection to CSUN,” said Scott Melamed, marketing manager for Haas Automation. “He went (here) and has a love for the school.”

Another sponsor funding the team is Esprit, which donates the software that numerically controls the machines. The vehicle’s criterion – a Yamaha YZSR6 motorcycle engine – is donated each year by Yamaha. The 600 cubic centimeter engine is as fast as any motorcycle. Due to contest restrictions, however, the car’s speed is capped at 65 mph.

The theory of the FSAE competition is that it is a fictional contest in which students are given the task to take on the role of a firm to market and manufacture a model car as a potential product. Restrictions are placed on the engine and speed of the car in an effort to test the students’ knowledge, Valdez said.

“This is one of the best projects the mechanical engineering department has, its hands-on experience. You are learning the manufacturing process, by taking a design from paper, bringing it to life and actually driving it,” Valdez said.

CSUN’s Matadors began researching and testing for the project during the summer. The project manager was determined and the team began meeting to prepare for the coming year.

After the competition, the new team is allowed to test drive the past cars, to learn how to drive formula cars and what changes should be made on the new car.

Color and other design elements of the fiberglass car’s features are decided by the team. Past cars have included a CSUN pride-inspired red and white car and a purple and gold car that celebrated the Los Angeles Lakers. Throughout the years, the best win the SAE has had was with the 2003 team, which won 10th overall out of the 140 cars entered.

“At first glance the car look like a cross between a formula one race car and a dune buggy,” said Mike Sherman, a graduate psychology major. “It’s interesting that it uses a motorcycle engine.”

Before the car is produced, the team held several reviews, such as the preliminary review in which concepts of what the coming year’s car will look like and ways to modify it from past cars were presented. The critical design review then follows in which Valdez said will probably take place on Nov. 17.

During the review, data to determine whether the car is strong enough for the application will be presented.

The 2006 car will begin production in late November and must be completed by April in order to compete in FSAE. The preliminary design review will take place Sept. 29 in Sequoia Hall room 104 from 7-10 p.m.

Renee Hassija can be reached at

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