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Measuring the Traction Limits and Suspension Forces of a Formula SAE Racecar

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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

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


Matthew Vincent Bartolomeo The Cooper Union

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Matthew is a senior Mechanical Engineering student at The Cooper Union who is heavily involved in the Formula SAE team. During the past four years his roles have included the team's Chief Engineer and most recently the lead of the Vehicle Dynamics system, overseeing the vehicle's suspension, steering, and brakes.

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Amanda Lombardo The Cooper Union

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Amanda is a senior mechanical engineering student at the Cooper Union. She officially joined the Formula SAE team's body and branding systems in Fall 2018, but has also unofficially been involved in helping the team with rapid prototyping for several years.

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Michael Colella The Cooper Union

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I am a current senior Mechanical Engineering student at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Throughout my four years as an undergraduate student, I have been an avid member of the Formula SAE team, working on various vehicle subsystems. For the past two years, I have been in charge of the frame subsystem.

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George J. Delagrammatikas The Cooper Union

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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 been involved in undergraduate motorsports since his college days and has been advising the Cooper Motorsports FSAE Team since 2005 ( He teaches undergraduate design, thermodynamics, and engineering experimentation and is the faculty adviser of the Pi Tau Sigma Honor Society.

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Intercollegiate competitions have established themselves as authentic engineering experiences as both extracurricular learning opportunities and hands-on supplements to traditional course instruction. The following paper describes the integration of a Formula SAE (FSAE) team project into a junior-level mechanical engineering experimentation course; it represents one of nine projects in this course.

The first half of the course is divided into modules that, for all students, progressively address: 1) the measurement chain and laboratory best practices using pre-existing experiments, 2) sensor design, selection, and calibration, 3) statistical data analysis and uncertainty limits, and 4) technical communication skills. The second half tasks student teams to propose, design, build, and carry out an original experiment to an engineering problem they perceive can improve the undergraduate experience in the department.

An FSAE racecar was instrumented in order to characterize its acceleratory performance and thereby inform a strategy for overall vehicle improvement. An on-board data acquisition system received data from accelerometers, a GPS system, and linear potentiometers on the four suspension systems. These data streams were then used to determine the total forces experienced by each tire; static calculations yielded suspension loads. Lateral and longitudinal accelerations over the course of a single race track were then plotted and reduced to find the traction limits of the vehicle. In addition, a novel statistical method using traction data to compare individual drivers and overall vehicle performance was applied to two different drivers on the same track. With this metric, areas for driver improvement could be identified and potentially be used to guide an event-specific driver selection process or personalize driver training.

Student learning objectives linked to ABET outcomes are described in the context of how they are assessed in this course. Results from student self-efficacy surveys and student achievement on assignments are presented and discussed as they apply to ABET outcomes b, g, i, and k.

Bartolomeo, M. V., & Lombardo, A., & Colella, M., & Delagrammatikas, G. J. (2019, June), Measuring the Traction Limits and Suspension Forces of a Formula SAE Racecar Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33096

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