“SAE has been the most important experience that I’ve had at IIT so far; it’s definitely the most tangible project that I’ve seen at a university,” says Katy Banks, Camras Scholar, third-year student at Stuart School of Business, and member of the IIT Motorsports Formula SAE team. “It’s a huge undertaking and a wonderful thing to pour your time into; it has a lot of return.”
She and fellow members of the IIT Formula SAE team had entered their WISER Tomahawk racecar in the 2015 Formula Hybrid collegiate competition in Loudon, N.H. and took home the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Innovation Award and a third-place General Motors Best-Engineered Hybrid System Award, among other honors. At the competition Banks had such a technically savvy conversation about the racecar’s carbon fiber body with a Chrysler engineer that he declared her an "honorary engineer"—not bad for a business administration major who can now add to her resume that she helped to build a car from the ground up.
Students from a variety of majors have been designing and assembling hybrid and electric race cars at Illinois Tech for more than a decade, says Mahesh Krishnamurthy, the team’s faculty advisor. He notes that students average anywhere from 10 to 40 or more hours per week working on the vehicles, especially when the team is in pre-competition mode. Over the summer students redesigned and built a new battery pack for WISER Tomahawk and will enter the 2016 competition, after which time the electric car will be retired and a new generation of “Hawk” will begin to take flight.
For the past seven years, Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research has supported Illinois Tech in the annual Formula Hybrid Competition.
“This project embodies the WISER mission to advance interdisciplinary education, research, and outreach initiatives in energy and sustainability—in this case, in the specific area of sustainable vehicle technology development,” says WISER Director Hamid Arastoopour (M.S. GE ’75, Ph.D. ’78). “These types of broad-based initiatives are essential to the development of the next generation of electric and hybrid vehicles.”