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Ferris students build Formula car, set to compete May 17-21

BIG RAPIDS - It can hug the curves of a grand prix track and go from zero to 60 in about four seconds. No, this is not James Bond's legendary Aston Martin db5 or some concept car fresh from the drawing boards of Detroit. This is Ferris State University's first entry in the Formula SAE competition. From its fiberglass body to its chromoly chassis, this powerful, compact vehicle was designed and constructed entirely by students from Ferris' College of Technology.

Senior Ryan Boysen, last year's president of the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, is Ferris Formula SAE team captain. Faculty advisor Chuck Drake calls Boysen the "spark plug" behind the project. Boysen got interested in the competition after going to the 2005 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress at Cobo Hall.

"We ran into a lot of teams there," Boysen said. "We started off as a group of about four people and ended up with about 28, including our engineering managers Kyle Kapa and Chetan Joshi.

"The best thing about our Formula team is that we get to work with a whole range of students. If you lack a certain skill you can get it from somebody else on the team. Since we all work in different programs, it all comes together just perfect," he added.

Ferris' Formula SAE team draws upon students majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Automotive Engineering Technology, Manufacturing Engineering Technology and Welding Engineering Technology.

The Ferris-designed vehicle weighs about 600 pounds and is powered by a 600 cc, 100-horsepower engine. Top speed for the vehicle under controlled circumstances is estimated at 100 miles per hour. Performance criteria such as maneuvering, braking, acceleration and endurance are all part of the competition. In the competition, the car will be judged not only on the track but the entire project's engineering, design presentation, safety features, manufacturing plans and costs.

"In our first year, we don't expect to take first place in the competition. We want to pass technical inspection and compete fully in the competition," Boysen said.

In 2005, 123 teams competed in Formula SAE - from winner Cornell to Venezuela's Universidad de Oriente. Ferris will be competing against the international field May 17 through 21 at the Ford Proving Ground in Romeo.