Sugar Grove Custom Cars, LLC., located in Dallas Center, Iowa is a proud sponsor of a specialized program called Formula High School, which is dedicated to preparing students for careers in manufacturing and engineering. Formula High School is a program put together by two instructors from Wisconsin; Jeremie Meyer (Preble High School in Green Bay) and Mike Besel (West De Pere High School in DePere). The Formula High School program allows teams of students to build a replica race vehicle in 8 months and then test it at the track.
This year the students chose a brand new Formula First racer, built by Sugar Grove Custom Cars (SGCC) as their model. A Formula First racecar is a single seat, open wheel style racecar, utilizing a VW engine, transmission and front beam suspension.
In this intense program, the students worked in teams to construct the vehicle. They were given a 3D computer model of the main cockpit section of the chassis to ensure proper placement of roll bars and bracing so the vehicles were safe. The students then used computer-modeling software to design the rest of their chassis.
They worked in teams to layout, design and manufacture the rest of the vehicle, including the controls, bearings, seats, etc. The students incorporated engineering and manufacturing techniques learned in class to construct their vehicles.
The body molds were provided by SGCC. Under the direction of a local fiberglass company, the teams of students learned how to lay up a fiberglass body. Once the bodies were removed from the molds, the students were responsible for trimming and fitting the panels to the chassis. To closely match the original racecar, while keeping costs down, the students were required to use the following:
16 HP V-twin Briggs & Stratton lawn mower engine
Front suspension parts from a VW beetle
VW spindles and brakes
Same steel wheel and tire assemblies used on the Formula First vehicles
Heavy duty centrifugal clutch connected to the solid rear axle by chain
By using off-the-shelf parts and a lot of elbow grease, the students were able to construct a complete car for $3000. These cars were not funded by the schools. The students learned how to present to prospective sponsors and how to create brochures and write-ups promoting their team. Each team located a sponsor for their car.
The students worked with a real-world deadline of April 25. No excuses. Some students went to school at 6:30 AM a few weeks in a row to remake some parts that did not meet proper inspection. Just like the real world.
So what's in it for the students? Formula High School allows the students to apply real world skills using real world technology. Students gain an excellent understanding how parts designed on a computer are actually built. They also have proven documentation of their ability to work in a team.
On April 27, 2009, the five cars were tested at the Briggs Motorplex at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. The cars were a hit! Even the track president came down to check them out. The students were allowed on the Motorplex track, one at time, to see who could set the lowest lap time. Teams were required to have at least three different drivers. The teams also had to repair any issues at the track on their own. The team with the lowest combined time of the three drivers was the “winner” and earned the bragging rights for next year. The West De Pere High School FHS team earned the bragging right for next year. Congratulations!
In addition to racing, the FHS car sponsored by SGCC (the Mysterian Jr.), took top honors in the "prototyping" division of the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Tech Challenge. This car is similar in appearance to SGCC's current Formula FST Mysterian M5. The other cars in the program generally look like the M5, but the color schemes are different to reflect the choices of the other sponsors.
The program was a great success. The schools look forward to building six new cars next year. They also hope to expand the program to other interested high schools across the nation. If you are interested learning more about this amazing program, visit www.Formulahighschool.com