Automotive club shifts into high gear for race

Jordan Fabbrini, senior mechanical engineering major, helps a fellow club member cut a piece of pipe. Elijah Hickman

Have you ever wanted to help build a racecar from the ground up and then compete in racing competitions?

This is exactly what the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) club does at California Baptist University.

Jordan Fabbrini, senior mechanical engineering major and president of CBU SAE, discussed what the club entails.

“Our team comes together and builds a racecar, which we then compete with,” Fabbrini said. “There are seven groups within the club, and each group consists of a lead, a junior lead and interns. The groups focus on a specific area on the car, such as the aero group that works on building the wings for the car.

“We organize the groups in this way so that there is a constant transfer of knowledge between the members. Information being passed down is one of the reasons why we have been able to be successful and trend upwards.”

David Howerzyl, sophomore mechanical engineering major and junior lead for the body and composite group, explained what he does as the junior lead of his section.

“My job is to assist with making carbon molds to form the outside shell of the car and write demands for the 3D machine,” Howerzyl said. “The end goal is to make the racecar as light as possible. There are new challenges every week, such as having to wait on materials. Also, everything is new for me and I am learning as I go, but the best part is building and putting everything together.”

This year, CBU SAE will compete June 16-20 in Michigan. According to SAE International’s website, North American universities compete to conceive, design, fabricate, develop and compete with small, formula-style vehicles.

“The competition is an engineering education competition,” the SAE International website said. “Teams are to assume that they work for an engineering firm that is designing, fabricating, testing and demonstrating a prototype vehicle. The vehicle should have high performance and be sufficiently durable to successfully complete all the events. Each student team design will be judged and evaluated to determine the vehicle that best meets the design goals and profitably built and marketed.”

Formula SAE promotes careers and excellence in engineering as it encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry.

“In the fall, we always begin by doing the design of the car, and then in the spring, we work on the manufacturing,” Fabbrini said. “There’s a new car each year, except for last year due to COVID.”

CBU joined SAE in January 2017.

“The first vehicle was the heaviest one we’ve made, which isn’t a good thing, but it passed technical inspection, which was a big milestone,” Fabbrini said. “Our last competition was in Las Vegas in 2021, and we placed fourth, which is really good. We choose the drivers of the car based on a reward system. There are four drivers, and it essentially comes down to who puts in a lot of work and seniority.”

Gabriel Bartlett, senior mechanical engineering major, was able to be a driver last year.

“Being a driver is fun, but nerve-wracking,” Bartlett said. “You are in control of the car that everyone has been putting so much time into, so you don’t want to be the one that messes it up. You also have to wear a driver’s suit, which is fireproof, and last year we competed in Vegas so it was really hot. It can be physically tolling too, and after a while, you start to get tired.”

Bartlett reflected on his four-year experience as a member of the club.

“The best part is the experience,” Bartlett said. “You can only learn so much in a classroom, and this club offers the opportunity for hands-on learning where you can actually apply skills.”

Fabbrini said he encourages people to join, saying SAE is always open.

“The garage door is always open and there is no limit to the number of members we can have,” Fabbrini said. “As long as you can agree to the time commitment, which is about 30-40 hours a week, you can do it. Joining is a great way to learn about engineering and even to get career experience.”

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