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University Relations

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June 5, 2006
Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934.

KU engineering students place fourth in international formula car challenge

Picture of the KU formula car

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas engineering students recently earned their best ever finish at the Society of Automotive Engineers Formula Car Challenge.

The Jayhawk Motorsports team earned fourth place at the international competition that took place May 17-21 at the Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo, Mich. The result represents the first time the KU team has broken into the top 10. The team has finished in the top 25 in six of the past eight years.

The team is now headed to the inaugural Formula SAE West competition, June 14 to 17 at the California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. More than 70 student teams from five continents have registered for the event.

In Michigan, “The car performed as designed — which was expertly! It was wicked, fast and competed with the best. Any minor setbacks were easily overcome to place fourth, our best finish ever,” said Robb Sorem, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the KU School of Engineering and an associate professor of mechanical engineering. “For the previous five years, only KU and one other team have finished all events. I can proudly say, after this year, that only KU has completed all events for the past six years. It is a tribute to our students’ commitment and ability to engineer a high-performance vehicle.”

In addition to their fourth-place finish overall, the team won the third-place Hoosier Racing Tire Autocross Award, which was given to the three teams with the fastest recorded autocross runs. The autocross event contributed to the KU team’s overall high ranking. The team also received the Formula SAE Spirit of Excellence Award, which was given to the top 10 overall teams and earned Jayhawk Motorsports a $600 prize.

The Formula SAE competition required the 140 registered student teams to design, build and drive a small formula-style racecar. At the competition, the teams and their cars were evaluated in a series of nine static and dynamic events including high performance track endurance, acceleration, presentation, design, cost and technical inspection. Student teams also were required to adhere to extensive safety regulations, submit thorough design information and make several technical presentations.

This year the 17-member team vowed to finish in the top five by making a few significant design changes to the car. They redesigned the suspension to allow a wide range of adjustability. Other changes included implementing a pull rod suspension system in the front and rear and creating a padded seatback that would accommodate drivers of all sizes.

The 475-pound Jayhawk Motorsports car can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds and has reached speeds of 110 mph. The car holds a 4-cylinder 600cc Honda CBR F4i engine without internal modifications to ensure reliability. The carbon fiber body sits atop 20-inch tires on 13-inch rims. The project cost more than $35,000 to complete and benefited from a substantial in-kind donation for the carbon fiber body.

Seniors in mechanical engineering have the option of taking part in the project as part of the capstone design series of courses in their major. Underclassmen in mechanical engineering often volunteer to be a part of the team and are then better prepared for the class and the competition when they reach the senior level.

Logan Johnson, mechanical engineering graduating senior who served as the volunteer leader last year, gained enough experience to become the team captain this year.

“There is a huge time commitment and an unbelievable amount of work to do when you design and build an advanced racing vehicle in well under a year’s time,” Johnson said. “Many people consider this to be a 9-5 job; others consider it to take more time than that.”

To learn more, go to:, or

Team members are listed below by hometown, level in school, major, parents’ names, high school and team role.

From Redfield
Ryan J. Mills, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Ron and Lisa Gray; Fort Scott High School; suspension team captain.

From Lawrence
Logan Curtis Johnson, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Terry and Suzanne Johnson; home school; team captain.

From Lenexa (ZIP 66215)
Stuart William Hembree, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Brad and Sonia Hembree; Olathe East High School; underclassman volunteer.

From Olathe (ZIP 66061)
Paul Schartz Rankin, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Mike and Susan Rankin; Olathe North High School; suspension team member.

Robert Nicholas Roberts, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Steven and Karen Roberts; Olathe North High School; underclassman volunteer.

From Overland Park (ZIP 66207)
David A Hickey, spring 2006 graduate in mechanical engineering, son of Thomas and Linda Hickey; Shawnee Mission South High School; suspension team member.

Kyle Wayne Martens, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Phil Martens; Blue Valley High School; engine team leader.

From Overland Park (ZIP 66210)
Paul Anthony Garcia, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Deborah Butler; Blue Valley North High School; underclassman volunteer.

From Shawnee (ZIP 66216)
Patrick Sherman Bramlett, senior in mechanical engineering, son of James and Pamela Bramlett; Shawnee Mission Northwest High School; drive train team captain.

Derek Ryan Cudney, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Michael and Laurie Cudney; Shawnee Mission Northwest High School; suspension team member.

From Spring Hill (ZIP 66083)
Garrett Alan Witthar, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Marilyn Witthar; Spring Hill High School; chassis team leader.

From Parker
Lawrence Alan Raitinger, senior in mechanical engineering and civil engineering, son of Lawrence and Lynna Raitinger; Prairie View High School, La Cygne; volunteer leader.

From Tonganoxie
Gretchen Marie Christenson, senior in mechanical engineering, daughter of Thomas and Janet Christenson; Eudora High School; underclassman volunteer.

From Lindsborg
Erich H. Ohlde, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Mark and Nacy Ohlde; Smoky Valley High School; underclassman volunteer.

From Pratt
Christopher John Hedden, senior in engineering physics, son of Richard Hedden; Pratt High School; underclassman volunteer.

From Derby (ZIP 67037)
Jared Samuel Anderson, sophomore in mechanical engineering, son of Kevin Anderson; Derby High School; underclassman volunteer.

From Goodland
Matthew Gannon Hall, senior in mechanical engineering, son of Fred and Sharon Hall; Goodland High School; underclassman volunteer.


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