March 16, 2023
Engineering students race toward sustainability as Schulich Racing gears up for new season
The members of the University of Calgary’s Schulich Racing team plan to cross the finish line a little differently next year, with plans to go electric for the 2024 season.
The team designs and builds open-wheeled racers and competes in a Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competition in May. Since launching in 1997, Schulich Racing has produced 22 vehicles, including their current racer set to compete this year, all gas-powered. Their 23rd, set to hit the tracks in 2024, will be their first to run on electricity.
The choice to move to electric is not only a sustainable one, but will also broaden students’ horizons for their future careers. “The whole automotive industry is moving towars electrification, so that also means our competitions are moving that way, so it’s kind of good to jump on the bandwagon and teach students more stuff that they are going to be using in the industry and later on in life,” says Liam Crofton, a second-year mechanical engineering student at the Schulich School of Engineering and team manager for Schulich Racing.
Shifting to electric has not come without its challenges for Schulich Racing, though.
“It’s an entirely new knowledge that we don’t really possess at the moment,” says team captain Matthew Kemp, a final-year mechanical engineering student.
We’ve always been running internal combustion and that’s where our knowledge stands, so developing and growing a full electric powertrain team from the ground up has definitely been the biggest struggle.
Kemp also sees positives for the students’ future employers. “(Things are) moving toward more electrification and sustainable energies, and preparing these students with that knowledge and experience will help them going forward into the future, as well as the companies that we work with,” he says.
“They get first-hand access to these well-trained students for when they go into industry.” Over the years, Schulich Racing has grown to more than 70 members.
Designing a new vehicle format is just the first step to victory. Once the vehicle is ready to drive, the Formula SAE competition spans over four days with the first two featuring judges looking over the vehicle, making sure all the rules have been passed and the vehicle is race-worthy.
The next two days are dynamic events where the vehicle will be judged in categories such as fastest acceleration and fastest cornering. The final event is a 22-kilometre race in which the fastest and most-efficient vehicle wins. In 2019, Schulich Racing took ninth place, their best yet, and are hoping to surpass that record with the new EV model.
Schulich Racing is supported by the Schulich Student Activity Fund, which also provides the club with access to facilities and storage. “We couldn’t do what we do without them,” says Crofton.
Students hoping to join the team can apply online or attend a recruiting night in the fall.