WISER Tomahawk

Team Profiles

Spotlight on Katy Banks (BA 3rd year)

IIT Motorsports Formula SAE Treasurer and Driver Candidate

Year and Major at IIT: Third-year business administration undergraduate specializing in mechanical engineering

IIT Motorsports Formula SAE car history: Joined IIT Motorsports Formula SAE during her first year and has worked on the current generation of the racecar, WISER Tomahawk, which was entered into the 2015 Formula Hybrid Competition, held April 27–30 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.    

On being a female on a mostly male team: Banks says that while men have outnumbered women on the IIT Motorsports Formula SAE team, members share in camaraderie and professionalism. “I’ve seen a lot of respect from the students here,” she says, “because the focus is about learning and innovating…” She notes that one of the biggest issues the team contends with is changeover, as international-exchange students, for example, join the team for one year and then return to their home countries. Last year, four women were on the team and two have since returned to Brazil. The team actively works to replace critical position vacancies as openings become available.     

Competition contribution: As treasurer and member of the IIT Motorsports Formula SAE Business and Marketing sub-team, Banks lent her business acumen to a PowerPoint presentation made at the competition. It addressed such topics as car costs, market aspects, and engineering considerations, and was given to an audience of industry professionals who also served as project capital investors. Illinois Tech placed sixth out of 27 registered teams.

Lasting benefit from the project: “One of the great aspects of the competition is that you get to meet all of the industry professionals right there, especially at Formula Hybrid, which is one of the competitions we’re able to go to as an all-electric car,” says Banks, noting that engineers from the top four companies in that field were present at the event. “Through the competition I’ve been able to make some connections and am looking to intern next year, maybe at Chrysler or Ford; I’ve been in communication with some of those people.” She plans, at least initially in her career, to work in project management within an auto industry-type setting. 

Spotlight on Frank LaMarca (ME ’14)

IIT Motorsports Formula SAE President

Year and Major at IIT: Second-year electrical engineering graduate student

IIT Motorsports Formula SAE car history: Joined IIT Motorsports Formula SAE during his sophomore undergraduate year and has worked on the current generation of the racecar, WISER Tomahawk, which was entered into the 2015 Formula Hybrid Competition, held April 27–30 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., and the Formula Electric Competition, held June 17–20 at the Lincoln Airpark in Lincoln, Neb.      

Duties as team president: “I provide overall management of the team, and make sure that team members actually get their designs done and are able to manufacture them. I also work to make sure that we get support and that resources are available for us. And then there’s also a little side thing that I like to do as well: being involved in the design, manufacture, and machining of the car. This year I helped a lot in the design of the accumulator for the battery pack and various small components. It varies, but I probably did something on each part of the car from every corner.

High point of project over time: “This has actually been a three-year project for me; I’m one of the few members who have been with the car since the beginning and it’s kind of hard to summarize three years of working on one single car. It’s been my favorite experience that I’ve had at IIT, one that I truly enjoy. This has basically been my life and is the type of job I’ll be looking for—and a lot of people did get jobs because of this car—so it’s my stepping-stone into the future. Because of this project I really want to work in the electric division of a top automotive company, designing and building their cars.

Handcrafted excellence: “Everything you see on the car is more or less custom made. The only things that are not because you can’t really make them are the wheels and tires. The shocks are also purchased. The motors are semi-purchased; they are custom-made for us or custom-stacked based off of our design, but the entire casing as a whole is completely designed by us. The suspension mounts and the chassis are completely made by us.”

Spotlight on Mahesh Krishnamurthy

IIT Motorsports Formula SAE Faculty Advisor

Role at IIT: Associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at IIT Armour College of Engineering; also director of IIT’s Electric Drives and Energy Conversion Laboratory and the Grainger Power Electronics and Motor Drives Laboratory

IIT Motorsports Formula SAE car history: Served as the program’s co-advisor with Ali Emadi, Harris Perlstein Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and took over the top spot when Emadi left the university in 2011; has worked with students on the current racecar, WISER Tomahawk as well as on its predecessor, WISER Hammerhawk

Impressive students: “Our team is divided into different sub-teams. The team that worked on the powertrain came up with the design for the motors. The rotor and the stator (stationary part of a motor) were sent out separately. For a hub motor the specifications are quite stringent. You have to have them synchronized to each other—if one wheel spins faster than the other the car will start doing doughnuts. Even in a research atmosphere, it is challenging to take on the responsibility of mounting this permanent magnet-based rotor onto the stator; it requires a lot of engineering judgment along with the right tooling and the right presence of mind. Our students did all of this work, which is extremely impressive, especially for an undergraduate and master’s-level team. It is well beyond their predicted capabilities.”

IPRO model: “We’re basically a club that uses IPRO (IIT’s hallmark Interprofessional Projects Program) as its model. Students understand what it means to build a startup from scratch. They are beginning to realize that it’s not enough for faculty to have a cool idea; they also need to help raise the money to make it happen. The carbon fiber for the body and some software were donated, the motors were purchased at a significant markdown, and WISER and other groups provided cash support. The students are also learning how to manage a team primarily composed of their peers. Since students receive no academic credit for the program, I’ve coordinated an IPRO and several senior-level electrical design projects on the car as independent study courses.”

One WISER Tomahawk-insider fact: “The frame of the vehicle is made out of carbon fiber and we had absolutely no idea how to go about the carbon-fiber process. The students had to talk to professionals in this area and build the car from the ground up with very little experience. We’ve had a tremendous learning curve going into the design of this car.”