Seeing “Ok, Cool. Hook Em!” written on the tail of their electric race car as it sped through the course was a moment four years in the making for the Longhorn Racing Electric team.
The team placed seventh out of 30 teams at the Formula SAE competition in Nebraska on June 19-22. Since the electric team joined Longhorn Racing in 2015, this is the first time they have built a car that passed judges’ inspections, team captain Patrick McCabe said.
“The year before, we really struggled and had to make fixes on sight,” said McCabe, an aerospace engineering senior. “It just didn’t really hit me until we finished the last inspection that we were actually going to be out there racing.”
Members build and test a new car to compete with each year, McCabe said.
“We actually build about 90% of the car in house just with the machine shops on campus and stuff we have in our garage,” McCabe said. “Then we’ll go and test that car for a few months and work out any of the kinks.”
Benji Eaton, the team’s dynamic lead, said he was surprised to finally see the car complete the race based on his previous experience at the competition.
"At first I was like, ‘OK, when is it going to break? When are we going to have it towed off?’” said Eaton, a mechanical engineering senior. “As we got further and further it was more like, ‘Oh my God, we might actually be a top ten contender.’”
The car can go as fast as 55 miles per hour and is built to go around corners as quickly as possible, McCabe said.
“The whole time I was driving, I was constantly trying to balance between, ‘I want to go fast,’ because I was in a race car, (and) ‘I can’t break the car. I got to make it all the way through across the finish line,’” McCabe said.
Powertrain lead Amir Downing said not only was the team young compared to their competition, but they were one of the few completely student-run teams.
“We have almost no input from engineering professors that directly helps us with our design, which is unique in this competition,” said Downing, a mechanical engineering senior. “It’s not something you see very often.”
Downing said many members joined the team as a way to apply concepts they learn in engineering classes.
“It’s a lot of fun being in that sort of setting where you get to exercise the knowledge that you pick up in class, and then try to help win a competition,” Downing said. “And we get to represent UT while doing so.”
McCabe said when he helped start the team four years ago, he wanted to create another outlet for hands-on engineering experience.
“We were just a group of freshmen that all got together and wanted something challenging to design and build,” McCabe said. “It’s kind of surreal for the founding members, because we’ve been working on it for four years and we’ve finally managed to do it right.”