There are those in Formula Motorsports that are part of the team, and then there are those who put their blood, sweat, and tears into it. The special groups are meant for those individuals, individuals who want to make the most of their time on Formula. On top of administrative and technical team responsibilities, members of these groups get the opportunity to race and maintain the vehicles, and conduct research and development into emerging technologies that includes in-house motors and inverters, advanced composites manufacturing, and autonomous driving.
The future is now! We have cars that drive themselves! You may be asking yourself why a racing team consisting of race cars and race car drivers would care about autonomous driving. Good question. Turns out that we aren’t just conducting research and development in the field, but in the coming years autonomous driving will be a requirement in our competitions. Autonomous vehicles have four core components: computer vision, localization, path planning, and control. Computer vision uses a system of cameras, light detection and radar (LIDAR) systems, GPS and inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensors to build a virtual environment. Once we’ve built an understanding of the world around us, we use localization to place the vehicle very precisely within that world. Now that we are able to perceive the world around us and know our place in it, we use path planning to find the most efficient route from point A to point B. The final step is control where we construct a system of steering, throttling, and braking in order to execute the trajectory built during path planning. The future of automobiles is here; it’s up to you to make it a reality.
Power Electronics Research
For years Formula Motorsports has been a Mechanical Engineer driven team, yet since we changed our focus three years ago to produce fully electric racecars rather than their internal combustion counterparts, we have branched out significantly. One puzzle piece that we have been missing is a deep understanding of power electronics. Put very simply there are three main components that allow an electric vehicle to drive, they are: the battery pack, the inverter, and the induction motor(s). The battery pack produces direct current (DC) power. The inverter converts the DC power of the batteries into usable alternating current (AC) power for the induction motor(s). And the induction motor(s) turn the wheels. Simple, right? Not really. The purpose of the Power Electronics Research Group is to develop high performance battery packs, inverters, and motors that are compatible with our style of racing.
When we talk to people about our team, we are frequently asked, “but who drives the cars?” The answer, in short, is the incredibly hard-working Driver Training and Maintenance team. More commonly referred to as DTM, the team is in charge of maintaining all of the racecars, testing various components and training the drivers to push our cars to the limit.
Members on the DTM team spend every weekend fixing or racing the formula car. The time spent racing our cars not only prepares our drivers for competition, but also provides valuable test data that validates simulations, works out issues with new parts, and informs future design decisions.
Note: Spots on this team are earned through consistent dedication to the team in both technical and administrative responsibilities.