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Villanova Formula SAE Implements COVID-Safe Teaching Methods

By Griffin Davis ’22 EE

Suspension Rocker project in SolidWorks
Suspension Rocker project in SolidWorks

Villanova College of Engineering's NovaRacing team is a collection of students from a variety of majors across the University that develops a Formula-style race car capable of competing with other universities around the globe in an annual Formula SAE competition. The competition features a variety of events from design presentations and cost analyses to performance tests and a 22 km endurance race.

This year, like all clubs, NovaRacing has needed to respond to the ever-changing campus-scape. Nearly 30 freshmen have shown interest in joining the team, but the garage cannot safely accommodate that many students for training. In order to introduce the freshmen, team president Chris Auslander and his senior officers implemented a series of online training modules on how to use SolidWorks.

SolidWorks is an instrumental tool for NovaRacing. The race car is designed from the ground up using SolidWorks, both for parts that are 3D printed and to create an entire digital assembly ensuring that all components fit in the assembly without interference. In addition to the learning modules, new members are participating in a rotational program to gain experience in the three race car systems: powertrain, driver controls, and chassis. The rotation serves to educate new members on what each system does, and the design involved; and accompanying mini projects (rocker for suspension, headrest for the driver, a fuel tank) let members practice their design skills and learn about the systems.

At the end of a rotation each member presents their mini project in a simplified design review. This part of the module emphasizes the importance of clearly communicating a design: a skill all engineers need. Chris says: "We’ve had one design presentation session thus far and it went really well! The new members walked us through the steps they took in their design process and their decision making. We were all really impressed given that some of them only started using Solidworks three weeks ago." Through this process, NovaRacing hopes to assign freshman design projects for the actual car by the spring semester. A design role means team members completely own their individual designs and see them realized in the final vehicle.

These learning modules are particularly impressive given that they have been entirely orchestrated by student leaders to work within the University's Covid-19 guidelines and keep students safe but engaged. The team has also developed a means for tracking and alerting members to the occupancy in the garage, which is limited to six. Chris explains: “A swipe reader system uses Google Scripts and our Wildcards to keep track of who enters the garage and its current occupancy. We can then alert our team members when the garage is full.”

NovaRacing is serving as a fine example for other clubs running in-person and online events during this very unique year.

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