Update: 22nd May 2005
"The Centennial" after successfully completing all the events in the FSAE 2005 competition
(Standing Left to Right: Lan Leimin (ME3), Hon Jern Yang (CPE4), Lim Chia Chiang (ME4), Terence Soh Bing Xun (ME4), Darald Tan Wei Jin (ME3), Jeff Tang Lip Wei (ME3), David So Man Fung (ME4), Victor Tan Chin Fei (EE4), Mohd Sharael bin Mohd Taha (ME3), Toh Wei Jie (ME3), Liew Yih Pin (ME alumnus, currently PhD student in Penn State U), Dr Tsou Poyu (FSAE liaison steward), Tan Chung Yee (ME4), Ng Kiang Loong (ME3)
Sitting in car: A/P Seah Kar Heng (NUS FSAE Faculty Advisor)
This morning was the finals of the design competition, in which only the top ten teams participated. Our overall FSAE position was 77th, so we were not even considered. Although we improved in most of the static and dynamic events from last year, we were heavily penalised in the endurance run, in which we scored zero points because our duration for the 22 km exceeded 133% of that of the fastest team of the day. Our drivers did not want to risk driving too fast because we had a faulty and hence unpredictable steering system.
I called for a 2.5 hour debrief with the boys and my professional officer Pang Cheok Fun this afternoon, during which we traced the history of our Centennial race car, starting from its conceptualisation in March 2004 till the end of the FSAE competition yesterday. It's been a long and tiring, but educational and exciting 15-month journey. There were many things we did right and many things that we did wrong, in terms of design and fabrication of the car as well as logistics and administration. All these lessons are precious for future FSAE work. My only regret is that the 6 final year students in the team will be leaving us soon, after honing their skills to such high standards. Year after year, I go through the pain of losing all my top notch students when they graduate. But such is university life. We are a production line where new students come in as raw material and leave as finished products. I wish them all the best for their future and hope they come back to visit us, while a new team and I slave away on the 2006 car, which will be our fourth home made race car.
On the morning of the acceleration event (Friday), my ex-ME student Liew Yih Pin, who is now reading his PhD in Penn State University, drove here from 2 am till 9.30 am to support us in the dynamic events. He stayed in our hotel room for 2 nights, then drove back again this morning. It's nice to know that our alumni are still so interested in our activities.
The boys have packed up the car in the crate, together with all the tools, spare parts and accessories. Tomorrow, the crate will be shipped off to Singapore and our work on the Centennial is finished. Work on next year's car has already begun since two months ago. This competition has been a great experience for all of us. Nowhere in the world will we be able to scrutinise, photograph and compete with over 100 student built race cars, each with its own design and yet conforming to all the rules and restrictions set by FSAE. We are proud to be one of the 140 teams to have participated in this intervarsity race car Olympics.
(Reported by A/P MAJ (NS) SEAH KAR HENG, NUS FSAE Faculty Advisor)
Update: 21st May 2005
Our car survived the 22 km endurance event (enduro), the grand finale. This was in spite of some problem that cropped up in the steering system. When Terence Soh was driving the first 11 km, he discovered that the steering rack and pinion could not engage at some places. By the time our second driver Hon Jern Yang took over at midpoint, the steering was getting quite unpredictable.
The enduro is the longest and most taxing event for the cars. It takes a whole day to get through so many cars since only five maximum are allowed on the track at any one time to minimise accidents and collisions. Last year only 40 out of the 140 registered teams survived enduro. This year, the survival count improved to 48 cars. The saddest case was the team from Kanagawa Institute of Technology whose overheated engine starting billowing smoke just 100 yards from the finish line. So they were disqualified at a point when they almost completed the race. Most of the others failed because of mechanical faults (bolts shearing, parts falling off, etc), but some just died at low revv and could not be started again. If not for our quick thinking Centennial team, we would have joined these DNFs (did not finish).
I think the dirty dozen and our professional officer Pang Cheok Fun have done a great job of saving our Centennial car and the race of the century (This year is also the Centennial of SAE). I really admire them for doing so many last minute rectifications to save the situation, even just minutes before every event. Their team work is impeccable. David So Man Fung, our very capable and on-the-ball 2005 team leader, is now quite a well-known figure among the officials here because he repaired our chassis after a crash last month and they had to approve the repair. The judges commended him on the excellent job done, thanks to the guidance of Cheok Fun who built the chassis of the 2004 car.
We'll be doing a debrief of this exciting competition after watching Formula One Monaco Grand Prix on the morning of 22 May. There's a lot for us all to learn from the experience, not only in racing but also in mechanical engineering, which is the closest thing to automotive engineering. Almost all the members of the other teams are mechanical engineering students, since very few universities offer an automotive engineering course. To me, FSAE is an extension of my classroom lectures and tutorials.
Watch this webpage for the enduro and final results coming out soon.
Update: 20th May 2005
Early pictures of the competition have been added to the gallery. You can view them here.
This morning we prepared the car by 7.15 for the 8 am acceleration event. The drivers were Tan Chung Yee and Terence Soh. We did pretty well and ranked no. 30 out of the 140 teams although our suspension settings were for the skidpad event which followed immediately after. We still believe we could have shaved off a couple of seconds to gain a much better position.
Later in the morning we did the skidpad event. The drivers were Tan Chung Yee and Mohamed Sharael. Our position was no. 70.
This afternoon, we had the autocross event. Our drivers were Hon Jern Yang and Mohamed Sharael. Our position was again no. 70. Seems like our lucky number, albeit a very mediocre one.
One of the competitors' cars (Universite du Quebec a trois rivieres) was under-designed and its front rod ends could not take the cornering and braking force at the finish line of the acceleration event. The rod end failure on both sides caused both front wheels to come off. One of the wheels flew up and hit the head of a female spectator. She survived but was lying on the floor bleeding from the forehead. So this afternoon's autocross event was delayed by almost an hour. They had to move the spectator stand to a safer place.
Update: 19th May 2005
The technical inspection yesterday for our car was from 4 to 5.40 pm. We did not pass the technical inspection for the following reasons:
1. For our shorter race drivers, the seat belt at the waist did not pass over the pelvic bone, but instead passed over the stomach region.
2. The driver's left hand doing the gear shift was not sufficiently protected against a possible collision from the side.
3. A leak from the fuel tank could find its way into the driver seat
4. Car battery was not secured properly
5. Final drive sprocket chain was too close to the suspension bolt
We worked frantically till sunset (almost 10 pm) to rectify these shortcomings so that this morning we can go for re-inspection and move on to other static tests. We're used to all this fire fighting by now, except that working in the cold Michigan outdoors can be daunting (below 10 deg C). Also hunting around for steel tubes and arc welding machines was not that easy.
However, we passed the 5 second emergency escape with flying colors. Terence was selected for the act because he was the tallest driver. He failed by just a split second at the first try and the judges were not willing to pass him. But at the second try, he managed to remove steering wheel, release all seat belt buckles, disentangle himself from the belts, and jump out of the vehicle within 2.48 seconds! This time the judges couldn't believe their stop watch. We gave him a standing ovation, since we were all standing and watching anyway. It's nice to know Terence won't be burnt to death in an accident. Anyway we bought two very nice Ferrari red fire extinguishers here since we couldn't bring them from Singapore.
These tests are for our safety. The organizers have to be very strict because all 140 competing cars are built by students, and the race drivers are the students themselves who have little or no previous experience in racing. This makes FSAE even more dangerous than professional motorsports.
This morning we went for our second try at the technical inspection and passed. All the impromptu modifications last night (even at the expense of dinner) was worth it. So we proceeded to the fuel tank capacity measurement, the 60 tilt test, and the sound test (ours was 103 db and the max allowable was 110 db). We just managed to pass the tilt test because the car was just about to topple over but didn't. Maybe Terence (the 184 cm bloke in the car during the tilt) is too tall for our car design. However no leaks were detected, and so we passed. This afternoon, we also passed the brake test.
Meanwhile, David and his sales team made the sales presentation this morning in the nearby DaimlerChrysler building. The design event this afternoon involved everyone because the judges grilled each guy on why he did such and such on the car. There must be a good reason for every nut and bolt and joint and component. Answers like "Because this will boost the horsepower" are not acceptable. They want to see experimental results showing that an innovation really improves performance. I think the boys this year are more prepared than last year's bunch because we had a thorough rehearsal just before flying to USA, tracing the thought process that went into the whole car from its conceptualisation to its completion. Overall the judges were very impressed with the design of the car. They also gave valuable advice on how to further improve on it. I was pretty confident of this event, but was still stunned when the judges asked some questions that never occurred to me at all.
Chia Chiang and his costing team are now at the costing event, where they have to answer for how much each part of the car costs in raw material, manpower, processing, etc. Meanwhile, our race drivers are having their practice session, to prepare for the dynamic events of the next few days.
At this point, I think all our labours on the Centennial have come to an end. There's nothing more we can do on the car, except for minor adjustments to suit each dynamic event. Henceforth, I shall relax and just enjoy watching our boys race on the track.
(Daily reports by A/P Seah Kar Heng)
Webmaster's Note: All dates relating to the FSAE Competition are based on Eastern Standard Time which is 12 hours behind Singapore Time.
Update: 18th May 2005
Our team registered early this morning. Now everyone is busy working on the car. We have to check all the bolts and connections to make sure they did not loosen during the long journey from Singapore due to temperature changes. We are also changing old parts to new ones. For example fuel injectors, clutch plates, filling the engine with oil, radiator water, top up brake fluid, etc.
Our boys were so impressed with some of the other universities' cars. Some of their ideas are so ingenious, we wonder why we never thought of them before. All over the paddock, you find competitors taking photos of other people's cars. Although there are 140 registered teams, not all of them are here yet. By tomorrow we will have 140 student-built cars to look at and admire. It is really a learning experience.
We talked to many other teams to learn from them and other teams also came to look at our car to learn how we overcame certain problems. One thing I can say is there are many teams with cars that are much more compact than ours. It shows they have done a good job of their CAD, something we should aim for next year. Packaging is a perennial headache in race cars. I saw one car with supercharge and their engine is as low as ours without dry sumping. All morning, I keep hearing our boys saying "How the hell did they manage to ....blah blah blah." and "Sir, very discouraging leh."
Some teams play safe by doing a recce for a few years first before they even send in their first car to compete. This morning, I saw a group of oriental looking students. I tried speaking Korean to them but they didn't understand. So I tried Japanese and they replied that they are from a Japanese university. Eleven of them came to recce first but will only compete from next year onwards.
Update: 17th May 2005
We opened up the crate yesterday afternoon and found our car intact without any damage. In the evening, we got the forklift truck to move our crate from the warehouse to our designated spot in the paddock, which turned out to be the exact same spot as last year. We set up our command post and parked the car there. Since the organizers have not officially opened the competition, we're not allowed to work on the car yet. Later at 8.30 am we will register our team and queue up for the technical inspection of the car. Only after we pass the inspection can we do any preparation work on the car. More and more teams are arriving with their cars and this ghost town is finally coming to life.
Update: 16th May 2005
We arrived safely at Pontiac this afternoon. The time difference between here and
Singapore is exactly 12 hours. The car should arrive tomorrow morning in the crate. This time we have all the tools ready to open the crate. Last year, we crated everything, including the tools to open the crate.
Update: 14th May 2005
The NUS FSAE team has set off for the long journey to Pontiac, Michigan, USA to compete in the 2005 Formula SAE Competition. We do hope that you will revisit this webpage often as we will be providing daily updates throughout the entire course of this intervarsity competition. Will we do better this year? Watch this space
Update: 11th May 2005
The Centennial with team members and faculty advisor
Updates: 22nd March 2005
Our car displayed at the NUS open house.
Updates: 3rd January 2005
Our new race car (FSAE 2005) has undergone an initial successful shakedown on 31st December 2004 3:53 AM.
Updates: 11th December 2004
Our new race car (FSAE 2005) unveiled at the Singapore Motorshow 11th to 21st November 2004.
Updates: 10th October 2004
More photos relating to the final stages of construction of the 2005 car have been added in the gallery.
Updates: 5th October 2004
For the Formula SAE competition in USA in May 2005, our new race car is registered as No. 130.
Updates: 15th September 2004
NUS FSAE has been featured in the press. Check out the article (pdf format) here!