Terps Racing club members reflect on team bond and test cars ahead of May competition
Students might not be able to tell how much work goes into the University of Maryland Terps Racing Formula team car by looking at it, but most members spend more time in the shop than at home,” said Adrian Martella.
The senior mechanical engineer is the project manager for the club’s Formula team and devotes a lot of time to the project, but he didn’t expect so many other team members to have the same mentality .
“But you’ll be surprised at the level of commitment everyone brings,” Martella said.
Terps Racing has enabled students to take the theories they learn in the classroom and apply them to the practical scenario of building a race car since 1982. There are three racing teams at the club: Formula, Baja and Formula Electric (EV). Baja is focused on creating a buggy-style off-road car, while EV is designing an electric car.
On Saturday, team members working on the formula team – which models its cars after Formula 1 cars using an internal combustion engine – held a test day for their creation after worked for two years.
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Many engineers stayed up late to tune the car before test day. Penn State Harrisburg, York College and the Naval Academy have all tested their vehicles at this university in parking lot 1C. The teams came together to prepare for the Formula SAE competition in May.
Some engineers tried to drive the car through a fictional route set up in the parking lot on the test day, which aims to simulate the challenges the cars will face in real competition.
The team practiced several tests, including the acceleration and skid tests, Martella said. The acceleration event assesses how fast the car can accelerate, and the skid event tests how fast the car can handle a turn, he added.
Caroline Ward, a mechanical engineering major and Formula team test manager, loves working on something tangible outside of the class thanks to Terps Racing. It’s hard to set foot in the automotive world, Ward said, but being on Terps Racing is “pivotal” for those looking to work in an automotive or racing company.
Alexander Frye was a motocross rider for 14 years. Now a test driver for the team, the senior mechanical engineer believes Terps Racing is the closest an engineer who wants to work in the automotive industry can get to real-world experience while studying.
“Honestly, I’ve never felt so at home anywhere on campus,” Frye said. “It’s funny if I’m anywhere it’s at the store hanging out and having a good time with them because after a while they kind of become your family because you spend so much time with them.”
While the club acts professional in its creation of race cars, there are still moments that show how much fun the members have with the project, such as the oil cans made from beer cans.
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During a test, the front wing of the Formula team’s test car blew off, interrupting the team’s practice. Chief engineer Nicki Rabchevsky said that was exactly the point of a test day: to break things.
He added that new members are often scared off by the learning curve of joining the club and designing their first car.
“We try to manage it in bites [pieces], but we eat an elephant,” he said. “I mean one bite at a time, but you still know it’s an elephant.”
Rabchevsky hopes the membership of the club will increase in the future to have a more diverse group of students involved. Some people who have revolutionized the club car are not stereotypical mechanical engineers, he said.
“I really want the club to grow, and I want people to know that even if they don’t know cars, they can be such a big contribution,” Rabchevsky said. “They shouldn’t be intimidated by the number of men here.”