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Board 113: Teaching Hands-On Racecar Design in a Summer Pre-College Program

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


George J. Delagrammatikas Cooper Union

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Prof George J. Delagrammatikas is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. He is the Director of STEM Outreach which is comprised of four programs that immerse K12 students in hands-on, authentic engineering design experiences (

George has also been an instructor in this program since 2006, mentoring students as they design, analyze, build, and test solutions to engineering problems they pose. He teaches undergraduate design, thermodynamics, and engineering experimentation and is the faculty adviser to both the Formula SAE Team (Cooper Motorsports) and Pi Tau Sigma Honor Society.

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Estuardo Rodas Cooper Union

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Estuardo Rodas is Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art where he is also Project Coordinator of the Mechanical Engineering Lab. He is adviser for Cooper’s Formula SAE team and a Lead Instructor for the summer STEM program for high school students. Among his other projects, Prof. Rodas designed the Ike Heller Center for Integrated Manufacturing and Robotics at Brooklyn Tech, collaborated in construction and design of the Tokamak at Columbia University, and created a full-scale model of NASA’s Mars Rover for Honeybee Robotics. He is especially interested in design elements and the mechanics of failure. Prof. Rodas is currently planning a workshop course in universal design for disability.

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Competitive motorsports at the undergraduate level has become an increasingly popular extra- and co-curricular activity at universities throughout the world. The importance of these experiential, industry-centered projects has long been understood by serving as a true proving ground for students while giving them the upper hand with industry recruiters.

Competitions sanctioned by SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers) generally occur at the end of the school year (May/June), thereby making the summer months a critical time for student teams to reflect on their previous designs and to start proposing innovations for the subsequent season. The Formula SAE (FSAE) team at The Cooper Union in New York City has used this time to immerse high school students in this real-world activity in their college’s summer STEM program.

This 6-week intensive summer program is separated into two main modules. The first module focuses on teaching students the fundamentals of engineering experimentation that culminate in oral presentations detailing their findings. These experiments include the study of cantilever beams, electric motors, water pumps, flame speed vs. air-fuel ratio, and basic electronics and microcontroller exercises.

After the first week of experiments, students develop a design project that is inspired by an urgent research problem the FSAE team needs to solve. During the past three years, these have included: 1) rebuilding, instrumenting and using a torsion rig to characterize the torsional rigidity of the vehicle’s frame, 2) building and using a dynamic impact attenuator test rig, 3) aggressive use of carbon fiber for weight savings in the steering wheel, suspension, pedal system, impact attenuator, and body, 4) novel techniques for the design and manufacture of aerodynamic features, 5) electronic data acquisition system, or DAQ and 6) building a brake dynamometer. Weekly design 'sprints' were given by each team where they presented an update of their project to the entire class and were then critiqued on their engineering method as well as their technical communication skills.

In addition to exposing the STEM fields to high school students as they explore college and career choices, this program was also a critical learning environment for the teaching assistants who mentored these students. Entry and exit surveys were used as assessment tools to gauge the efficacy of the program in providing the students with a better appreciation for the opportunities available in the STEM professions and if the program itself changed their desire about what profession they would want to explore in college.

Delagrammatikas, G. J., & Rodas, E. (2019, June), Board 113: Teaching Hands-On Racecar Design in a Summer Pre-College Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32194

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