SAC Motorsport Team Drives to Success - Again

May 15, 2018

Russell Guerrero

For the second year in a row, a team of San Antonio College students has created a vehicle from the wheels up and competed in the national Shell Eco Marathon. And once again, the students returned to SAC after winning honors at the event.

The SAC Motorsport team for the 2017-18 academic year was mostly made up of new group of students who wanted to see if they could improve on the earlier Motorsport team's accomplishments from a year ago.

Designing "Shark Bait" 
To do this, the Motorsport team decided to build a lighter, more aerodynamic vehicle. During the fall semester they constructed a new design from cardboard and plywood mock ups. A local company donated a composite material used for constructing airplanes to make the body.

The vehicle was also designed around Allie Moore, the electrical team lead and the designated driver. The vehicle was custom made for her, including a seat that was molded to her body.

The team nicknamed the vehicle "Shark Bait," after the character of Nemo in the movie Finding Nemo. They even wrapped the vehicle in a vinyl covering that matched the color of Nemo.

Camila Miglio, the team manager, said time was the biggest challenge they confronted. "There was a lot to do and very little time," she explained. "We were not a very big team. The last few months we would work until one or two in the morning."

Obstacle Course 
This year, the Shell Eco Marathon Americas  competition, sponsored by the Shell Oil Company, was held at the Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

The goal of the competition is not speed but fuel efficiency. Using a format that is equivalent to measuring miles per gallon (mpg), vehicles complete a 6.5-mile run using as little fuel as possible. However, to keep the race from dragging all day long, vehicles needed to complete the run in 25 minutes.

Before any team can take their vehicle on the track, they must pass a thorough inspection. It was here the Motorsport team hit its first roadblock.

"It was a little bit of panic time when the back brakes did not pass inspection," remembered Isaac Medina, the mechanical team lead. Fortunately, the team was able to fix the problem in half an hour and Shark Bait was ready to compete.

As the team put their vehicle on the track for the first time, spirits were flying high. Moore, the driver, had mapped her strategy and started her first run. But as Shark Bait was just about to finish, the team hit another roadblock. The fuel cell turned off causing the motor to stop.

"It was definitely a little stressful because we didn't know what was going on at that point," Miglio said. The problem turned out to be a valve that fed hydrogen into the fuel cell was not opened all the way.

"We figured it out pretty quickly and we got back into the race," Miglio said.  

The team finished two additional runs during the first day but the results were disappointing. They were only able to get to 780 mpg, which was less than the year before. That night and on the following morning, the team made changes to the vehicle. On the fourth run, the team reached 945 mpg, which was enough to capture fourth place in their category.

Unexpected Honor 
The team was feeling very good about the results when they learned they had also won first place in the Vehicle Design Prototype Award.

"Finding out that we won that award was a huge surprise," said Miglio. She added the judge was impressed that the team re-used material and incorporated donated material for the car. The judge also liked the custom-made seat.

"Thinking that they awarded us first place in design among 69 teams, that was huge," Miglio said.

After returning to SAC, the team reflected on what they accomplished. Medina said he was proud the team was able to envision what they wanted to create and made it themselves. "That was incredible to me," he said.

"Having the chance to build a vehicle and compete against other teams - that was amazing," added Miglio.



At Shell Eco-Marathon, victory is measured in miles per gallon  is a local news story that includes the SAC Motorsport Team.