What is Formula SAE®?
Formula SAE® is a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). The first competition was started back in 1979 after Mark Marshek, then at University of Houston (Texas) contacted the SAE Educational Relations Department in 1978 to discuss adding a variant event of the Mini Baja; the name Mini Indy was founded. As many organizers have found, the work in building a car can be exceeded only by that to organize the event; 1980 failed to produce an organizer. Having seen the potential of the event, Mike Best, Robert Edwards and John Tellkamp, students at the University of Texas at Austin, approached Dr. Ron Matthews with an idea - how about another Mini-Indy, but with some changes? Make the rules more open; let it be as unlimited as possible. It was desired that this new competition would take the cars to the next level of engineering. The Baja competition was great for chassis design, but many students wanted to work on engines as well. The new rules would keep engine restrictions to a bare minimum. Any four-stroke engine was allowed for the first four years with power limited by a 25.4 mm intake restriction.
With grass roots support from his students, Dr. Ron Matthews contacted the SAE Educational Relations Department and set the wheels in motion. To differentiate this new event from the Mini-Indy, a new name was sought. To reflect better the road-racing nature of the event and its increased engineering content, the Formula SAE name was adopted.
The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving.
Formula SAE promotes careers and excellence in engineering as it encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances. Formula SAE takes students out of the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences.
Today, the competition has expanded and includes a number of spin off events. In the United States there are two locations: California and Michigan; Michigan being the largest event and longest running.