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USC Racing is on the right track

Engineering team competes in four key events at Nebraska’s Formula SAE Lincoln

With engines revved, the USC Racing team recently competed in a collegiate design series organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

The team’s car, Nikki, participated in four events — acceleration, autocross, skid-pad and endurance — in mid-June for the first time since 2003 at Nebraska’s Formula SAE Lincoln.

“Competing in all races is critical to doing well in the competition overall. It is also a testament to the quality of your car,” said Sean Summers, president of USC Racing and mechanical engineering student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “Building a car is one thing, but building one that is reliable enough to make it through the entire competition is another.”

Noting a malfunction with one of Nikki’s fuel injectors, Tyler Makin, USC Racing’s former team president and business manager, added: “We were able to enter every event, but not being able to finish that last endurance race was a bit of a heartbreaker. So we left Lincoln a bit disappointed, but knowing that we accomplished quite a bit.”

Key improvements

USC Racing team with Nikki

USC Racing team members pose with their creation, Nikki. (Photo/courtesy of USC VIterbi)

Nikki was significantly improved from last year’s car. A couple of the most notable improvements were the addition of wings for aerodynamics and a steering wheel with an integrated LED display that allows the driver to note everything from speed to RPM to water temperature and oil pressure. The 35-member team devoted a combined 500 hours a week to building the car, according to Summers. Some members spent more time with Nikki than in class.

Nikki, which weighs 485 pounds and can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, will help USC Racing build a better car. Team members plan to use Nikki to gather key data and test out new technology and components before implementing them on next year’s car.

USC Racing secured an impressive 28 sponsors, including GM Design, XRP, Boeing and Chevron, which donated cash, tools, materials, and machining and manufacturing services. The team also won the 14th position in a business presentation designed to persuade executives of a mock manufacturing firm that its car could be properly manufactured and marketed.

Looking ahead

USC Viterbi student Jason Zide, one of Nikki’s Formula SAE drivers, has been named a winner in the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy. Zide secured a 12-month engineering stint with Infiniti Red Bull Racing, a Formula One team in the United Kingdom, along with a full salary.

Other USC Racing members are turning their attention to the future.

“I am very proud of what our team accomplished this year,” Summers said. “We’re on a promising track, and I am confident that 2015 is going to be a big year for USC Racing.”

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