Engineering students show need for speed


WEB-SFU formula 1-Mark Burnham

For the first time in history, SFU students will compete in the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers West competition — an event organized by the engineering association, SAE International.

The SFU Formula club is taking part in the annual student race-car design competition, which includes competitors from approximately 200 universities across North America, including UBC, UVic and the University of Alberta.

The competition requires students to build a Formula One inspired car, which includes features such as four wheels and an open-wheel design, a small engine equivalent to that of a street bike, and an air-intake flowing through a 20 mm restrictor. These requirements limit the vehicle’s power, allowing students to focus on making it as light as possible.

“SFU didn’t have any big, competitive projects for engineers to take part of,” says George Ioannou, a member of the group. “We decided we could get it started so we could get students involved in something that’s more competitive, and not just for fun.”

The most prominent advantage of the club’s car is its aluminum chassis, says Ioannou: “Everyone else uses steel, so that will give us a little bit of an edge on weight.”


To become a true contender in the future, the club is vying for accessible space for students.


The team is composed of two four-person groups: one responsible for electronics and control, made up of students Ioannou, Spencer Steele, Batuhan Atalay, and Richard Douglas; and one for design and build, including Gustav Louw, Tyler Docherty, Michael Brini, and Colin MacDonald.

Most teams in the SAE competition are comprised of 20 to 30 students, according to Ioannou, and have about a year to work on the project; SFU’s team, however, is much smaller and only has eight months.

“We wanted to do this as a club when we first started,” explains Ioannou, “but people were hard to come by.” The car initially started as a capsule project for fourth-year engineering students, but is evolving to a club as more people begin to take interest in it, he said.

Being a first-time car, Ioannou said the group isn’t aiming to win the competition just yet. “We want to up the exposure, so people can know that we’re around and we’re here to compete,” he said. Ioannou believes this will bring the group more members, sponsors and funds, giving them more leeway to make everything “more customizable.”

To become a true contender in the future, the club is vying for accessible space for students. Steele’s family shop in Maple Ridge currently holds the vehicle, but it is a long distance from the Surrey-based engineering program.


The car initially started as a capsule project for fourth-year engineering students.


The group recently proposed using the former building for the Shell gas station on the Burnaby campus, which is currently being used as a studio for wood-carver Jackie Timothy and as a storage area for totem poles from Nahino Park.

According to Steele, the team has sent a proposal to SFU with the hopes of sharing this space with Timothy, SFU’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Club, and other student clubs with projects that are in need of space on campus.

Steele says that the Formula Club is asking for the space, at least temporarily as the building of the Student Union Building may interrupt their plans to use it, however, even if the Treehouse location is chosen for the new SUB project, he estimates the group would still have “a couple years” to use the area.

“We want to bring all these students together in one place,” says Steele. “We could have as many as four cars at any given time being built in a shop, and perhaps over a hundred students from different faculties being involved.”

The group’s proposal for the space is currently being analyzed by John Driver, SFU’s VP Academic and Provost, says Steele. In the meantime, the Formula Club will continue to work on their project and give it their best at the competition next June.


*The article, “Engineering students show need for speed,” incorrectly stated that totem poles from Nahino Park are stored in the former Shell gas station building. Phil McCoy from Facility Management clarified this point and explained that various facilities use the building for storage. The area has also been used for the softball team’s batting practice “for about ten years,” says head coach Mike Rennie.