There is nothing wrong with a little competition, and for students on The Husker Motorsports team, competition means squealing tires and roaring engines as their cars rip around the track at a breakneck pace. But the many hours that go into the car before track day also help them prepare for their future careers.
The Husker Motorsports provides students with a unique way to apply what they have learned in the classroom, and gain hands-on experience, Kaleab Mengistu, technical director of Husker Motorsports and senior mechanical engineering major, said. The team spends all year designing and building before finally racing a car head-to-head against other universities from across the country.
“I was looking to get some more hands-on experience for my major,” Creighton Hughes, project manager and junior mechanical engineering major, said. “I saw this as a great way to not only socialize, like those other clubs and learn a lot of things, but be able to work hands-on and to be part of a competitive team.”
The team has a very short period of time to build the car, Hughes said, and they begin researching and gathering data over the summer. The fall semester is spent designing the car, and modeling it online. All of the parts are manufactured by the beginning of February, so assembly can begin in the spring semester. During spring break, they begin testing the car so it is ready for competitions in the summer, Hughes said.
The team consists largely of engineering majors, Hughes said. However, they attempt to run the team more like a business than a typical club in order to draw in students from other majors.
“Our engineering students design and build the car, but we have a business side of the competition too,” he said. “And we have some business and marketing majors on our team that helped us promote the club and help us manage the club better.”
Mengistu said that he is actively trying to reach students interested in motorsports that are not necessarily engineering majors. A project like this can apply to any job, Hughes said.
Hughes and Mengistu both, separately, became interested in the team at the Engineering Student Advisory Board’s Rock the Block event. They worked together in aerodynamics, and both eventually became executive leaders, Hughes said.
“I chose aerodynamics because I wanted to get into aerospace engineering, mainly designing planes for commercial aviation,” Hughes said. “But now this club has shown me that while engineering has a creative and problem solving side, it can have a competitive side.”
Mengistu said working on the car is a challenge because they are forced to work through problems on their own and learn as they go. He said he had little knowledge of the business and marketing perspective, but developed those skills through the organization.
“I think everyone should have an experience like this where they can meet people and do something meaningful,” Hughes said, “and have something coming into an interview that they can throw on the table and say ‘here's what I did’.”