The Future of the Auto Industry on Display at NAIAS

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January 13, 2011

Thousands of visitors will attend the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit to get an advance peek at what the automotive future holds. Attendees who want to see further into that future should walk to the north end of the main concourse to visit the Michigan State University (MSU) Formula Racing Team exhibit and meet the students who will one day design, manufacture, and market the “concept cars” displayed at future NAIAS shows.

The MSU exhibit showcases the work of students who design, manufacture, race, and market a small, open-wheel racecar for the Society of Automotive Engineers Formula SAE collegiate competitions. The group is exhibiting three of the racecars built for past competitions: Car 9 (2007), Car 51 (2008), and Car 71 (2010) at the Detroit Auto Show.

The team is made up of about 20 primarily undergraduate students from across the university, with majors ranging from engineering to supply chain to economics. Throughout the year, they engage in a “design, build, race” project cycle that includes designing a vehicle, procuring and fabricating parts, building a prototype, and engaging in extensive vehicle testing. In May, they join more than 125 student groups from around the world at Michigan International Speedway in competitions that test the design, efficiency, endurance, and performance of the vehicles they have engineered.

“Formula SAE has broadened my education by allowing me the opportunity to apply my thoughts and ideas to a real-world application,” says Joshua Frontiera, an applied engineering sciences junior and project manager for MSU Formula Racing. “In Formula, there are always difficult problems and no one else to fix them but yourself. Members of the FSAE team have an advantage as we enter the working environment—we’re already prepared to identify problems and develop working solutions quickly.”

“The team’s participation in the auto show is valuable to the university, to the students, and to our partners and sponsors in industry,” says Gary Cloud, University Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering and faculty adviser to the MSU FSAE Racing Team. “It gives students the chance to demonstrate their creativity in producing a new car every year under tight deadlines, and also to experience what is going on in the automotive field. Industry representatives and visitors are able to see for themselves the high quality of the work of our students, as well as the knowledge and maturity they exhibit while presenting it.”

In addition to designing and building a racecar, FSAE team members learn project management skills such as procurement, financing, and marketing. Students are responsible for securing in-kind and cash sponsors to make their plans a reality. Sponsors for MSU’s NAIAS exhibit include the MSU College of Engineering, Skyline Exhibits, D.E. McNabb Flooring, Convention Show Services, Allegra Printing, ASAP Printing, and the North American International Auto Show.

The auto show is open to the public January 15-23.

Information about the 2011 North American International Auto Show