Student Engineers Aim for Speed on the Racetrack

Members of Princeton Racing Electric

Members of Princeton Racing Electric, a new club that plans to build an electric race car. (Photo: Courtesy Princeton Racing Electric)

Student life at Princeton can be fast-paced, but for Princeton Racing Electric (PRE), this description takes on a whole new meaning. Student engineers in the new organization are working to design, build, and race an innovative electric race car. The group’s ultimate goal is to race at Dartmouth University’s Formula Hybrid Competition in late April.

More importantly, the competition is an opportunity for students to test their knowledge and contribute to the growing field of clean energy.

“What we are trying to do is take everything we’ve learned so far and apply it to make electric cars better. They’re what’s being built today, and it’s definitely going to be a big part of our future,” said Hafeez Sulaimon ’15, president of PRE.

Sulaimon, a mechanical and aerospace engineering student, helped to start PRE while working in a Princeton research lab over the summer. Throughout the fall semester, PRE recruited students for its four sub-teams: Three are devoted to designing different components of the car, and one is focused on fundraising. After spending three months designing the car using computer software, the group is now working on building the car.

The biggest challenge so far, members said, has not been engineering the car but securing funding. “In order to build a competitive car that is also very safe, a lot of capital must be raised in order to purchase quality materials,” said Benjamin Sorkin ’17. He adds that part of the planning involves figuring out which parts need to be purchased and which can be manufactured by the students.

Unlike most of the universities entering in the Formula Hybrid competition, Princeton is participating for the first time. Because of the team’s inexperience, Sulaimon says that members of PRE are approaching the competition with a two-year plan: This year is intended to be a learning experience, and next year, the team aims to compete for the championship.

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At work in the E-Quad. (Photo: Courtesy Princeton Racing Electric)

Despite the challenges, students say that participating in PRE has been worth it for the unique experience it provides outside the classroom.

“I get the opportunity to apply the theoretical skills I have learned in the last few years to a physical design problem that must compete with designs built by like-minded students at other universities. Our plans are real and our calculations have meaning,” said Luke Amber ’15.

By allowing students to apply their engineering knowledge and learn real-world skills, PRE may be the highlight of some students’ Princeton experience.

“I want to do something cool here at Princeton, something that I can hold onto for the rest of my life,” Sulaimon said. “Pulling this off and representing Princeton University at the competition will probably be the most memorable part of my Princeton career.”

Read more about Princeton Racing Electric at princetonracingelectric.com.

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