By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant
Students in Oakland University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering will gain access to new research tools and automotive testing equipment thanks to a $30,000 grant from the DENSO Foundation.
The funds will support student efforts to optimize design concepts, identify failure mechanisms and implement cost-effective redesign options in undergraduate powertrain, tribology and heat transfer research. In addition, the grant will benefit OU’s award-winning Formula SAE team, which has competed in dozens of events in Michigan, Canada and other places.
“We are very grateful to DENSO North America for providing much-needed research equipment in support of our student teams and undergraduate research opportunities, said Dr. Brian Sangeorzan, professor of mechanical engineering. “Our students stand to benefit greatly from this award.”
Oakland’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) offers undergraduate students many opportunities to participate in automotive research. In addition to participating in traditional programs with faculty, the Department of Mechanical Engineering has had an Automotive and Energy Research and Industrial Mentorship (AERIM) program, and the Automotive Tribology Center (ATC).
AERIM was co-funded by the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates and provides hands-on research experiences for student teams engaged in automotive and energy-related research projects, with a special emphasis placed on improving efficiencies of internal combustion engines. The program engages participants in rewarding research experiences and also encourages women and minorities to pursue the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The ATC is the only university research center in the United States dedicated to automotive tribology research specifically designed to advance the reliability, mobility and efficiency of automotive components. Since its inception in 2005, roughly 10-15 undergraduates have participated in these programs each summer, with several students continuing their work throughout the academic year. Current research in the AERIM and ATC involves automotive lubricants and heat transfer fluids, specifically nanofluids.
Most prominently, the grant will support OU’s Formula SAE team. Comprised of more than 40 students from all engineering majors, the group competes in the International Formula SAE student design competition each year and is currently ranked 36th out of 514 teams in the world and second in the state.
The chapter regularly participates in many other events, including the Woodward Dream Cruise, Concours d’Elegance of America, Rockin’ Rods in Rochester and the SAE World Congress at Cobo Center. For the last three years, their formula style race car has been displayed at the North American International Auto Show.
The grant funding will provide the team with new opportunities to gain a competitive edge, according to Dr. Sangeorzan.
“This grant from the DENSO North America Foundation will be transformative for OU’s SAE Student Chapter and to our undergraduate automotive research opportunities by providing new capabilities for testing and analyses that will allow the OU FSAE team to continue to compete successfully with the very best schools in the world,” said Dr. Sangeorzan, who serves as the team’s faculty advisor.
For the annual student design competition, students operate a fictional manufacturing company that develops a small formula-style racecar, which is evaluated for its potential as a production item. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype racecar based on a series of rules that promote innovative problem solving. The competition encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances.
“Formula SAE takes students beyond the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences. To do so, however, they need real engineering tools, just as they would use in industry,” Dr. Sangeorzan explained.
“The equipment provided through this grant will enhance the infrastructure and environment for student training in the application of real automotive technologies to their vehicle designs, and will provide the OU student team with opportunities to be more innovative and competitive in this challenging international student design competition.”
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