By Samantha Winn | April 21, 2020
In May 2020, after three years of hard work and 844 miles of travel, Jack Hannum and his team of 36 fellow students will represent the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing as ‘Gamecock GP’ at the Formula SAE competition in Toronto, Canada.
The prize? The chance to network, show off an electric car and compete in an international competition against thousands of students across the country.
The road to the sold-out competition has been long.
Jack Hannum, the president of Gamecock GP and a junior electrical engineering student at the CEC, wanted to create a space where future automotive engineers could work. By creating a chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers during his freshman year, he was able to get recruiting off the ground during the fall of 2018.
“There’s not like a whole lot of automotive activity going on at the University of South Carolina even though that’s literally the reason a lot of people become engineers,” he says. “A lot of people, it stays with them and there is kind of a need for that automotive activity to be met here at South Carolina.”
The competition consists of the team designing a Formula Electric racecar and competing in various competitions. Using previous designs from other universities – such as Carnegie Mellon – as inspiration, their strategy to win is to compete in all of the electric events including autocross, endurance, design and more – which is not an easy feat.
Before construction began, extensive research was necessary.
“We had no idea what we were doing at all. We spent the first year of the program just researching. Thankfully there are a lot of white papers out there about this, because a lot of schools will use this as their senior design Capstone-style projects,” Hannum said. “So, there’s info out there, we just have to learn it and do it and we’re in the middle of doing that right now.”
The team of 36 students has been divided into five groups that focus on different sections of the racecar, according to Hannum. The groups look at various parts of the car, from the chassis to the electric engine to the aerodynamics of the car. Eventually, they will come together as a whole to put the car together. The final product will be a steel-frame tube chassis framework on a 3/8 scale size that will be driven by a Porsche-sponsored student driver.
Gamecock GP is funded with the help of sponsorships and investors. As a 501c3, private sponsors like Segra can invest in the project.
“We’ve found that supporting the college was a good way to attract people to your business, especially in a technology industry,” said Patrick Aslup, a Segra representative. “We support all businesses, and we are only business-to-business, and it makes sense to be a part of a good investment into kind of shining a good light on things as well.”
Segra, like other sponsors for Gamecock GP, helped offer expertise in communications and building connections throughout their building process.
Jacob Hodges, the Chassis Team Lead for Gamecock GP and a junior mechanical engineering student, is one of many who are working tirelessly to finish the car for competition.
“I focus on the welding and a large majority of the actual cutting and coping, and coping is just making a tube fit around other pieces of tube,” Hodges explains. “I’ve done all that part and I also helped other team leads to work on design to make sure their components work with what I was doing with geometry within the chassis frame.”
For their first year of competition, the team’s goal is to compete to the best of their abilities.
“I think a big thing this year is simplicity,” Hodges said. "We just want to get there. That way we have more information and data that we can use for next year to make a much better car. The goal is just to have a functional car.”
Without the long hours the team has put in, this opportunity wouldn’t be here, Hannum said.
“It’s just a phenomenal opportunity,” Hannum said. “It’s a cool opportunity to get lots of project management experience, get a real hands-on design experience building a real thing so taking all the stuff that you learn in the classroom and actually putting into a real car on the road.”
“There is just going to be so much to learn,” Hodges added. “We’ve never done this as a university, at least in the last decade, two decades really, so I think it’s going to be great to have the university represented there and get some contacts to help us in the future.”
April 2020 Update:
Due to the evolving coronavirus pandemic, the Formula SAE competition has been moved online. Hannum and the rest of the Gamecock GP team will still compete virtually in three categories: cost, design and presentation. Judges will still host the competition and will ask each team questions about their design process.
We wanted to share our original story on the team to show the extensive work they put into the project, their original goals, and the large scope of the project that they undertook.