LAWRENCE — Assembly is in full swing on two vehicles that the Jayhawk Motorsports team at the University of Kansas School of Engineering will race in competitions later this year. Seniors and underclassman-volunteers design and manufacture an electric and an internal combustion vehicle throughout the school year and will complete construction on both cars in mid-April.
The official unveiling for the combustion car is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24, at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St.
Students are divided into two teams. One builds the electric car; the other builds the combustion car. They fabricate almost every aspect of each car and assemble it in the team’s workshop in Learned Hall.
“The biggest difference between us and other schools is that when we make two cars, the only difference is the drivetrain. So that way, we have two cars that we can use a lot of the same other parts for,” said team leader Katelyn Johnson, a senior in mechanical engineering. “We don’t have to make two different chassis or suspensions. “
The team will compete in the Formula SAE Michigan competition from May 11-14 and in Formula SAE Lincoln from June 15-18. Jayhawk Motorsports took fourth place in the combustion vehicle competition and second place in the electric vehicle competition at the Formula SAE Lincoln in 2015. They also won first place overall at the competition in 2012 and 2014.
Senior mechanical engineering students serve as team leaders for Jayhawk Motorsports for their capstone project. Fifteen to 20 underclassman volunteers work with the seniors in the assembly and drafting of the cars. Mechanical Engineering Professor Robb Sorem serves as the team adviser, but the project is primarily student run and driven. Jayhawk Motorsports also recruits students of from any engineering major – and any other major from across campus -- to take advantage of the experience.
“I’ve learned a lot of lingo that I didn’t even know existed, and I learned the basics of how to put a car together, which was really interesting,” said Isaac Powell, a sophomore in mechanical engineering. “Getting involved in activities like Jayhawk Motorsports is also important for finding out what your interests are and to give you unique experiences that will help you later on in life.”
Although the team leadership positions are reserved for juniors and seniors, freshmen and sophomores gain experience and knowledge from learning how to build and operate the cars. Underclassmen learn the essentials of auto assembly by aiding upperclassmen in all the areas of design and construction. Powell said that underclassmen can get started right away.
Photo: Students are shown with a previous car designed by the Jayhawk Motorsports team in this 2015 photo.