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UC Bearcat Motorsports revs up for competition

Each year, the UC Formula SAE team designs, builds and tests a racecar for international competition

For more than 25 years, Bearcat Motorsports has left a legacy both on and off the racetrack. UC’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers team gives students practical design and manufacturing experience, along with leadership and teamwork skills, that ultimately allow students to successfully transition from academic to professional fields.

Over the course of one academic year, the Bearcat Motorsports team designs, builds and tests a Formula-style racecar, which they eventually enter into nationwide and global competitions. This team’s goal is to place top-10 at Formula SAE Michigan, the annual international competition held at Michigan International Speedway.

Students on the team become well equipped to handle the communication and business side of engineering, but they also gain technical knowledge in areas like carbon layout machining, finite element analysis and 3D modeling.

graphic rendering 2019 racecar

Rendering of Bearcat Motorsports' 2018-19 racecar. Each year, the team designs, builds and tests a new car. Photo/Provided.

Having an active racing team for more than 25 years is no small feat. With more than 600 student clubs and organizations across UC, it’s not uncommon to see clubs emerge and disappear like the rise and fall of the checkered flag. Part of the club’s lasting success is rooted in its inclusive nature. 

“Anyone can volunteer to this club and commit as much or as little time as they want,” says Ted Simmons (mechanical engineering ’19), business leader of the team. “Any background is welcomed, whether they have no experience or a wealth of experience.”

For the first 10 years of its existence on campus, Bearcat Motorsports was composed solely of volunteers. The team’s first big success came in 1998, with a fourth-place finish at the Michigan event. Since then, the team has racked up multiple top-ten finishes. Each year the field gets more competitive, but UC manages to stay toward the front of the pack.

1993 team posing with racecar outside Baldwin Hall

The first Bearcat Motorsports team poses with its racecar in 1993. Photo/Provided.

In 2002, UC professor Randall Allemang, PhD, took over as advisor and transitioned the organization into an activity-based senior design capstone class that included both engineering senior design students and volunteers. Simmons, who is enrolled in this year’s class, encourages interested students to stop by during class time, which takes place Tuesday evening from 4 to 6 pm in Linder Center, room 850. When they’re not there, you can usually find them in the shop: Rhodes Hall, room 440.

With about 30 senior design students and 30 volunteers working on the racecar, things can get a little chaotic. To maintain order, the team is divided into two sub-teams: technical and business. The technical team is further divided into groups that individually address parts of the racecar, like the engine, frame, suspension and aerodynamics. The business team meanwhile addresses challenges related to marketing, costing, networking and sponsorship.

Anyone can volunteer to this club and commit as much or as little time as they want.

Ted Simmons UC mechanical engineering student

“Some of those soft skills like presenting, communicating and networking are going to be very critical for my career goals,” says David Judd (mechanical engineering ’19), one of the members of the business team.

Ultimately, Bearcat Motorsports’ historic success is a larger reflection of UC’s commitment to experiential learning. The planning, teamwork and organization that goes into competing at the international every year challenges students to grow as members of the UC community.  

“I’ve most appreciated the challenge of becoming a leader,” says Simmons. “It’s quite a challenge to identify team members’ strengths, commitment levels and unique skillsets, but it’s also a very applicable way to build the future leaders of tomorrow.” 

Bearcat Motorsports success would not be possible without the generous support of donors. The team would like to thank the following 2018-19 sponsors: Valvoline, Marathon Petroleum, Mubea, AIM, Signal.X, Marquee Engineering and Millennium Metals.

To contribute to the team, visit the Bearcat Motorsports donation page.

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