Friday, August 26, 2011

University of Oklahoma engineering teams have successful summer

Engineering competition teams from the University of Oklahoma had successful showings at regional and national competitions this summer.

Published: August 25, 2011

NORMAN — Thomas Ingram and other members of the University of Oklahoma's Sooner Racing Team scrambled to fix their car.

They had just finished the first of four runs during an acceleration test at the Formula SAE-West competition in Fontana, Calif.

It was obvious the car's engine wasn't running at peak performance, said Ingram, the team's captain.

Students had about an hour to diagnose the problem, solve it and make their last three runs. Turns out, the fuel filter wasn't working properly, which caused problems with one of the fuel injectors. Despite the glitch, the team finished 10th in the event and second overall at the competition. Judges evaluated students on their performance in several areas, including endurance and cost analysis.

Successful summer

The team's overall second-place performance was one of several successes OU engineering students had this summer.

The Sooner Racing Team designs, manufactures and races a new car every year. OU is ranked fourth among about 460 teams worldwide, Ingram said. The team has about 20 students from a variety of majors, including business, zoology and film studies.

Students try to raise about $65,000 to $75,000 a year just to build their car and travel to a competition, Ingram said.

Ingram, a mechanical engineering senior from Broken Arrow, said he has gained a variety of skills, including teamwork. He's also had an opportunity to meet students from around the world. During recent years, the Sooner Racing Team has traveled to Germany and Virginia for competitions.

Hungry to compete

The team is excited for this year, Ingram said. So are members of OU's Concrete Canoe team, which recently placed 12th at the 2011 American Society of Civil Engineers' National Concrete Canoe Competition in Evansville, Ind.

Cassie Gonzales, one of the team captains, remembers watching the national competition in 2010 and wishing her team had qualified to participate. OU students placed second at their regional competition that year, just shy of qualifying for the national event. Gonzales and a few other team members traveled to California to watch.

“After getting that taste, we were ready,” said Gonzales, 21, a civil engineering senior from Flower Mound, Texas. “We worked really hard this past year.”

The team qualified and sent about 20 students to the national competition this summer. In addition to placing 12th overall, the students placed sixth in an oral portion of the competition.

Gonzales said she has learned skills from the concrete canoe team that she otherwise wouldn't learn until graduate school. She has also gained experience collaborating, networking and public speaking.

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