Full speed ahead: A look at new Motor Sports Team

The+Lafayette+Motor+Sports+team+is+a+new+club+created+over+the+summer+and+spearheaded+by+the+engineering+department+has+been+working+to+turn+classroom+skills+into+tangible+projects.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Kevin+Durfee+23%29

The Lafayette Motor Sports team is a new club created over the summer and spearheaded by the engineering department has been working to turn classroom skills into tangible projects. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Durfee ’23)

Caroline McParland, Sports Editor

The Lafayette Motor Sports team has been working to create an interdisciplinary environment where students can work on Lafayette’s electric race car for the Formula Hybrid Competition this May. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Durfee ’23)

The Lafayette Motor Sports team was created this past summer in order to spearhead the development of Lafayette’s Formula Electric Vehicle (LFEV), an electric race car for the FSAE’s Formula Hybrid Competition. 

Mechanical Engineering Professor Alexander Brown is the club’s faculty advisor, and mechanical engineer Kevin Durfee ’23 is the club’s president.

“The way the Formula car project has always worked at this school is it’s been solely a senior design project, so every year all the seniors graduate and there’s no lineage of institutional knowledge,” Durfee said. “It also didn’t provide any opportunities for anybody to be involved in the project outside of the seniors or anybody who’s not a mechanical or electrical engineer.”

The Formula Hybrid competition is an interdisciplinary design and engineering challenge for undergraduate and graduate students.

“We started the shift in the focus into making this car a little more performance-based, to try to do better at competitions as well as to practice good engineering like the seniors do, and to provide that interdisciplinary opportunity for non-seniors,” Durfee said.

Additionally, the competition allows for inter-departmental collaboration between the mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering departments at Lafayette.

“Lafayette hasn’t been able to make it to competition in a few years due to delays for covid, but we are registered for competition this year,” Durfee said. “The competition has a couple of static events, acceleration and braking tests, an endurance race and other things like that.”

Their task for the competition is to collaboratively design and build a formula-style hybrid or electric-only racecar and compete in a series of events. 

“We are currently doing some finalizing tests on the suspension and are working on redesigning and optimizing the steering. That’ll put us in a place to hopefully start assembling as well as working with the ECEs on the battery packs,” Durfee said.

Hybrid or purely electric racing competitions are becoming more prevalent in order to increase the long-term sustainability of the sport.

Students on the motor sports team get to experience the challenges of creating and implementing a wide variety of technologies hands-on while being part of an interdisciplinary team.

The design, fabrication and budgeting of the car are all student-led and emulate real-world experience by allowing students to apply theoretical principles from the classroom to real-world problems.

“There’s a consistent group of us that come, and we’re hoping to continue to grow it and have more people join,” Durfee said.

The team meets in Acopian 239 on Mondays at 5 p.m.

“You can just show up. Anybody’s welcome to join no matter your major. You can be undecided, or a first year. We’re welcome to really anybody of any representation on the team,” Durfee said. “We get everybody the safety clearances and necessary training they need to work on certain parts of the car if they want to do that, but we have different avenues outside of building the car as well like budgeting, documentation and design.”

The overall intent is for classroom concepts to be translated into tangible skills, while the students get to work with some of the most talented professionals in the emerging technology industries.

“I’m grateful to provide the opportunity for other class years and majors to work on this car. Everybody on my team has a lot of passion for the project and that’s why they’re doing the work they’re doing,” Durfee said. “We’re registered to go to competition in New Hampshire this May, and we’re excited.”