Formula SAE Texas Tech to Compete at Michigan International Speedway

From textbook to racetrack, design competition encourages students to apply their skills.

A fictional manufacturing company is looking to build a Formula-style race car, intended for the amateur weekend autocross enthusiast. Formula SAE Texas Tech is among many teams rising to the challenge.

Formula SAE is a student design competition organized by SAE International, formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers. The task encompasses just about all aspects of the automotive industry, including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances. The competition drives students out of the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences.

Matthew Candler, a senior chemical engineering major from Midland, is president of the interdisciplinary team comprised of students from the Edward Whitacre College of Engineering, Rawls College of Business and the School of Art. Together they have created a working prototype, built from the ground up.

“In May, our team will load up the car into trailer and drive it cross-country to the Michigan International Speedway, where we will compete in a series of events against dozens of teams from around the world,” said Candler. “In the past, we’ve always worked down to the wire. This year we started earlier, finished earlier and had five weeks to test and tweak.”

So during the past several weeks, their little red and black car might be seen zipping across a commuter parking lot, through red cups strategically placed on a makeshift course. And while the vehicle’s performance is high on their list of priorities, there is much more for the team to consider.

“The competition is much more than finishing first on a track,” Candler said. “Our team will be judged in a number of categories, from cost and presentation – to design, endurance and efficiency.”

A points system ultimately will determine the winner in each of the categories.

Formula SAE Texas Tech first appeared on campus and competed in 2005, but afterwards adviser Brent Guinn says the team ran out of gas. The seniors graduated, and the group that followed ran into funding and registration hurdles. Ultimately, the team disbanded and lay dormant for a few years.

Justin Rivera, president of Formula SAE Texas Tech from 2009 to 2011, sparked new interest in revitalizing the team. In that first year, the group reorganized, raised money and helped out at the Michigan event. By learning the intricacies of the competition from the inside-out, the students gained perspective. In subsequent years, the team has entered a vehicle, each one improving upon the last.

“There are so many logistics to making this work, but organization and momentum is key,” Guinn said. “Our goal this year is to successfully complete all the events.”

Together, the 20-member team raised more than $30,000 through 27 sponsorships to build the car. Guinn says sponsorship gives these companies an inside track toward building relationships with the next generation of engineers.

“Many students do not take opportunities like this while they are still in school,” Guinn said. “Involvement like this speaks well on resumes and at job fairs. From project management to deliverability, these men and women demonstrate that they have something extra.”

Candler, a chemical engineering major, already has a job lined up after graduation and credits this experience as preparation for a brighter future.

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CONTACT: Matthew Candler, president, Texas Tech Formula SAE Team, (432) 638-7318 or