By Andrea Janus
Ladies and gentlemen start your engines. The run to get more funding for Ryerson’s race car team has begun.
Last week, RyeSAC gave the team of engineering students a $6,000 boost in funding to build the Formula SAE race car they intend to compete with on an international level in Pontiac, Mich. On May 14.
RyeSAC President Darren Cooney hopes that Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse and the engineering department will follow RyeSAC’s example and commit to the project.
“It’s an important program for the university and it gets us a lot of exposure in both high schools and the outside world,” said Cooney.
The Formula SAE competition is the largest student engineering competition in the world, with 140 universities entered this year.
Each team builds a race car modelled on a Formula One car, and competes in various disciplines such as design, performance and cost analysis.
Although the car brings valuable exposure to Ryerson’s engineering program, the 22-member team building it receives no funding from the engineering department.
The only money the team has received to date is $4,000 from the Project Funding Allocation Committee for Students.
“We get a lot of pats on the back which is great, but it doesn’t really go further than that,” said Daryl Bear, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and one of the team’s leaders.
The team estimates it needs another $14,000 to compete in May. The money will be spent on tires, safety equipment and travel expenses.
If the students do not receive funding from the university, they intend to cover the cost with money from their own pockets.
The lack of funding available has also raised concerns about safety for the team. The students decided to weld scrap metal together because they could not afford a pipe that was needed for the car.
Last weekend, the part gave way and a wheel flew off and hit a teammate at a test drive.
The team has lobbied program directors within the engineering department for funds but has never received a response.
In comparison, the University of Toronto team receives about $20,000 from its engineering department and other areas of the university.
The U of T team also receives other support including insurance coverage, professional machine shop hours and help with paying the team’s bills.
“If we were at any other school, we’d be doing extremely well,” said Bear.
The team is upset about the lack of support it receives from the university, because the car is used to promote the engineering program and recruit potential students.
“They don’t really want anything to do with us until they have high school students coming,” said Bear.
Stalin Boctor, the dean of Ryerson’s engineering department, said that although the project adds to students’ resumes, his hands are ties in helping them achieve their goals.
“It’s just that we don’t have enough funds to go around,” he said. “We’ve never been given money for student activities.”
Corporate sponsors aid the team by providing building materials for the car, including an engine from Yamaha.
In return, the companies get publicity at the competition which is covered by world-wide media and from appearances the team makes at events such as the Auto Show. As well, companies want to encourage brand loyalty in young engineers about to start their careers.
The team hopes to scrape enough money together to make it to the competition. Bear believes his team has a chance to break the top 50 cars.
“With the right resources, though,” said Bear, “this team could do very well.”