Fuel the imagination

For the last 10 months, nearly 60 undergraduate engineering students from the KJ Somaiya College of Engineering have been toiling to build the perfect open-wheeled race car. The group, titled ORION Racing India (ORI) has been competing at the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) student design competition for the last six years. After juggling their regular studies with research, conceptualising, developing and manufacturing a super-efficient racing car, they finally unveiled their creation ARION 2012 on Tuesday.

Arion 2012 has been conceptualised and designed by the students of KJ Somaiya college. Pic/ Sayed Sameer Abedi 

Burn the road up
Built on a budget of R17 lakhs (funded by sponsors), the racing car boasts of a lightweight carbon fiber body, which makes it faster and can reach speeds ranging from 0 to 100 km per hour in just 4.4 seconds.

The team that designed the Arion 2012

in the Cost Report Section of the competition section in 2010. This year, they hope to make it to the final rounds of the competition that will be held in August in Germany. Apart from ORI, two more teams from India will also compete at the Formula SAE competition. Nigel Pinto (21), a third year mechanical engineering student and member of the core team that built the racing car, says, “ORI was started by undergraduate students who were bored and wanted to study beyond the curriculum. This became a yearly project which culminated in the Formula SAE.”

Earlier, the team had grappled with a short budget due to lack of sponsorship and had created innovations including a prototype made using 150 cc autorickshaw engines. But this year, thanks to sound financial backing due to sponsors they have focused on intensive testing of the car.

“From March, we have been testing the racing car on the track; this helped us figure the elements that have been over or under-designed. That should, hopefully, make a lot of difference in the competition. We have also used rapid manufacturing techniques to develop this vehicle, which is a relatively unknown concept. Plus, as compared to last year’s racing car which weighed 268 kilo, ARION 2012 weighs just 240 kilo,” adds Pinto.

Team work road map
While 60 team members have worked on the racing car, the core team of 20 people will be heading to Germany for the competition. While developing racing cars may not be part of the curriculum or fetch the students extra marks, its passion that keeps the students going. “Often, we would work all night at the workshop. The college has been very supportive and they have been flexible with our schedules which enabled us to work on this project,” adds Pinto.

To develop the prototype, the students went about work in a methodical manner. The ORI team included mechanical and electronic engineering students and while the design aspect was handled by the final year students, second and third year students assisted them and first year students worked as volunteers. “Formula SAE gives us a global platform where we get to interact with teams from other countries. It helps put our name on a global map and gives us exposure beyond what is taught in class,” states Pinto, who has been to two Formula SAE competitions so far.

He recalls the challenges: “Often, we lack in technical aspects as we are one of the few undergraduate teams. We end up competing with Masters level students globally, which is tough. But we make up with our hard work and determination.”

Did you know?
Sae is considered to be the world’s largest engineering design competition and there are around 44 countries participating internationally along with India including students from the USA, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Hungary, Italy, France and South Africa. Participants are tested on the basis of a mock marketing competition where they have to convince the judges (which includes top manufacturing companies) to invest in their car, a design challenge, a driving challenge (the students have to drive the car) and a Cost Report challenge where they have to justify the budget and resources used to develop the car.

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