PROVO — It wasn't easy, building a race car.
From concept design to finished product, the student engineers spent thousands of hours in Brigham Young University's shop, measuring, problem-solving, welding. Sometimes they wanted to pull their hair out because the parts wouldn't fit together. Some things had to be remade at the last minute.
"Was it worth it?" said Jesse Davis, a 21-year-old sophomore from Genola. "I mean, come on. We built a race car. That's pretty dang cool."
Through the Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education program, 15 BYU students joined with 19 other universities to design and manufacture the race car over an 11-month period. This week the car is making its way from Provo to a General Motors showroom in Detroit, where it will go on display for a few months before it is tested and put through time trials.
The race car, which students finished assembling last Tuesday, is sleek, aerodynamic and packs more power than a Corvette straight off the lot. The only difference between it and a bona fide Formula One race car is the engine, which is a four-cylinder rather than an eight.
"It is going to be a very, very fast vehicle," said Davis, whose main contribution to the project was turbo charging the engine. "The engine is a work of art ... It's smaller than most cars out on the
roads, and it's more powerful than pretty much all of them."
Before he got involved in this project, Davis' engine-building experience was limited to souping up his Ford Ranger and tinkering with the school's design software. The partnership program, which is sponsored by companies like General Motors, EDS and Sun Microsystems, provided industry mentors to help with students' questions. Sponsors also donated close to $500,000 to fund the car's production.
"We've been able to work with many different kinds of people and companies," said Benjamin Pace, 26, a mechanical engineering major who graduated in April. "We've been mentored by professionals, trained by technicians in the automotive and aerospace industries. It's better than a real-world experience, because you can make mistakes and it's OK."
The most difficult part of the project, Pace said, was coordinating between the different universities, which spanned nine countries and 16 time zones.
Each section of the car was designed and built at a different school. The front suspension was designed in Korea. The rear made its way to Provo from Germany, and the shifting mechanism took shape in Mexico. BYU, in addition to designing the body and the engine of the car, was charged with making sure all the pieces fit together.
"It was both rewarding and frustrating to be the project coordinators," said Jordan Ryskamp, a Lindon native who just graduated with his mechanical engineering degree. "We met some really cool people, but it was hard dealing with the language barriers and the cultural differences."
Once, Ryskamp, who was in charge of keeping tabs on the progress of a school in Mexico, had to reschedule a video conference call three times before he realized the engineers on the other end of his e-mail were confusing the word "Tuesday" for "Thursday." Some of the parts made at different schools didn't measure up to specifications, so BYU engineers had to redesign them.
But it could have been worse.
Between them, the BYU engineering students spoke all but one of the languages spoken at the other universities, said Greg Jensen, a professor in the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology. Jensen volunteered the school to lead the project for that very reason.
"I've taken these students all over the world," he said. "It's been very gratifying and satisfying to watch the students train other student engineers in their native languages."