College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

CoE group teaches high school students about automotive engineering

Jason Whited, left, presents to students at Marshalltown High School on April 12. Photo by Andrew Potter, Marshalltown District Communications Director

A College of Engineering student group is currently on a tour of Iowa high schools to teach teenagers about automotive engineering opportunities at Iowa State.

Iowa State’s chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) recently traveled to Marshalltown High School where they brought a few of their vehicles and told the students about opportunities available to them if they study engineering at Iowa State.

SAE is one of the largest engineering student organizations on campus with more than 200 students spread across five competition teams: AeroBajaClean SnowmobileFormula and Supermileage. Aero builds a 12-foot wingspan RC airplane from the ground up to compete in a weight lifting and maneuverability competition. Baja designs and builds a single-seat, off-road racing vehicle which competes in more than five yearly competitions. Clean Snowmobile Challenge modifies a stock snowmobile to meet more stringent emissions and noise standards, while increasing performance. Formula designs a high-performance open-wheel race car, and is currently ranked 4th in the United States. Supermileage builds a high mileage vehicle from scratch, with a goal of reaching 800 mpg.

Jimmy Rolansky presents to students at Marshalltown High School on April 12. Photo by Andrew Potter, Marshalltown District Communications Director

“Iowa State SAE’s objective is to develop leadership, engineering, and communication skills in college students from a variety of disciplines, and promote STEM in the surrounding community,” said SAE vice president Jason Whited, a senior in mechanical engineering. “The core function of each team is to design, build, and compete with their respective vehicle in yearly international competitions.”

SAE students are able to take material they learn in the classroom and apply it to their work on the various SAE vehicles and are also able to take the skills they develop through SAE and apply it to the classroom. Involvement in SAE also teaches the students about industry standards and best practices in the automotive field.

“SAE-rated oil, bolts, design practices, and testing plans can be found in nearly every machine that moves people. The engineering done at the Iowa State SAE chapter is much more focused. We are here as a chapter to help the next generation of engineers learn by getting their hands dirty with something that moves and interacts with the world,” said Baja’s Project Director Derick Whited, a senior in mechanical engineering. “Every part on every vehicle we build is picked or designed with purpose behind it, so we operate similar to a large vehicle manufacturer – like Polaris, General Motors and Caterpillar – when they go to design and build a prototype. This effort requires a concert of different disciplines and specializations to bring it all together, so we do a lot of structural design, dynamic system analysis, ergonomic studies, combustion engineering, and operations research.”

Erin Mitchell, left, presents to students at Marshalltown High School on April 12. Photo by Andrew Potter, Marshalltown District Communications Director

During their trip to Marshalltown on April 12, the team brought with them their Baja and Formula cars as well as their snowmobile. The team was invited by Mike Lazere, a PLTW and biology teacher at the high school. They talked to roughly three hundred students and staff members from PLTW classes, physical science, metals, business law, and sports marketing and entrepreneurship.

“The four members who went spoke on everything from our backgrounds at Iowa State and our future plans to the vehicles and competitions in which each of us participate,” said SAE Fundraising Mangaer Erin Mitchell, senior in Industrial Engineering and in the concurrent MBA program. “Specifically, the focus on was the iteration and documentation that went into each vehicle, pressing the point that the vehicle is not just the final product but also the documentation and presentation of it.”

Jimmy Roslansky, Formula’s Aero lead and a sophomore in aerospace engineering, said outreach events like this are important for not only recruiting students to Iowa State and SAE but also for exposing pre-college students to the STEM and automotive fields more broadly.

Erin Mitchell presents to students at Marshalltown High School on April 12. Photo by Andrew Potter, Marshalltown District Communications Director

“Talking to kids at Marshalltown High School and other outreach events has allowed me to see how many kids are interested in STEM. While a lot are interested, most don’t really understand how STEM fields apply to the real world. Getting to see our vehicles gives them a visual representation of how their education will be used in the future,” Roslansky said, adding that he first got introduced to SAE by attending Iowa State’s ClubFest as a freshman.

Next month the team will visit three more schools:  Mount Vernon High School on May 9, Carlisle High School/Middle School on May 10, and Ankeny Centennial High School on May 11.