The Ravens Racing team has unveiled its newest Formula-style race car and it’s one they hope will break records.
The gas car made its debut during the Ottawa Gatineau International Auto Show, held at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa from March 17 to 20.
The four-day annual event is a chance for manufacturers to display the latest vehicles to thousands of buyers. For the student-run racing team, it’s an opportunity to showcase the calibre of talent stemming from Carleton’s engineering programs.
“A lot of the parents and people that came by with children would say: ‘That’s something you can do in a few years. You can go to university and build that,’” says Frank Sorensen, Ravens Racing Team leader and a master’s of Mechanical Engineering student.
“They’re usually kind of surprised or impressed that we design and build it ourselves,” he says.
Ravens Racing is comprised of approximately 50 students from all years and disciplines of engineering at Carleton, as well as business and industrial design. Each year since 1999, the team has designed and built a car from scratch to compete against hundreds of international teams at the Formula SAE competition in Michigan, which is organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
The students also compete at smaller events in Lincoln, Neb. and in Barrie, Ont.
The competitions were designed to provide student engineers with more practical, hands-on experience in addition to the theory they learn in the classroom.
Although the Ravens Racing team is big, there’s plenty of work to go around. From designing the car to managing the marketing and social media strategy, everyone has a role to play.
“Sometimes it’s a case of watching and learning to a certain extent, or doing things that might seem like menial tasks, like making a little bracket to hold a piece onto the car,” says Sorensen.
But for students who take the initiative to stay involved throughout the year, it’s a valuable and challenging learning experience. Turning theory into practice is often more difficult than it seems.
“Even with a lot of experience, there’s lots still to be learned. And to be able to overcome new challenges when things go wrong and to be able to fix problems…it’s a really good experience,” Sorensen says.
This year, the challenge is to out-do the team’s best performance to date — sixth overall in the electric class, 21st in the combustion class and first in fuel efficiency out of more than 100 teams at the Formula SAE race in Nebraska.
“It just shows the quality of the students that are coming out (of Carleton),” Sorensen says. “But also the determination and how hard-working they are to be able to accomplish something like that.”
In preparation for this year’s races, the Ravens Racing team has switched to a different engine and reduced the weight of their car from 440 pounds to 360 pounds to make it even faster.
In addition to their latest gas model, they’ll also compete with an electric car that they built and used in competition for the first time in the 2014-’15 season.
“We’re hoping for a top 10 result. We think that’s definitely something we can achieve,” Sorensen says.
“We pride ourselves in that we can compete against the best and showcase what Carleton has to offer.”