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Venture for Racing Excellence needs your support!

April 24, 2017 - By Kim Delker

The Venture for Racing Excellence, a new initiative at The University of New Mexico School of Engineering, has been established to raise funds to upgrade and improve the popular Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) program and is now actively seeking donations.


The LOBOMotorsports Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) program began formally at The University of New Mexico in 1998. It is a unique, problem-based, hands-on senior design program, where over the course of three semesters, students design, build, and test a small Formula-type racecar for international competition. The project includes every aspect of systems engineering, project management, and teamwork seen in a government or industrial engineering development program. In a little over a year, the team takes a system from conception to operation. The program is interdisciplinary and has about 45 students on each year's team. It is one of the few programs in the country that doesn't operate as a club. Instead, FSAE is a for-credit alternative to a senior design project.



Our students have amazing skills and talents, but the cramped and dingy facilities they work in in our Mechanical Engineering Building often limit their ability to achieve true greatness. As a result, we are seeking donor funding for an ambitious project to revamp and enhance our FSAE program space and facilities. Your support is needed for the many phases of this exciting venture. Our main goals are to acquire the latest technology/equipment/facilities for our students to design/build/race, with the overall vision of becoming a top 10 public university FSAE program in the country, as well as to attract and retain more top students and faculty to UNM.


Despite a challenging economic environment in New Mexico, we are boldly charging ahead - and finding success! The Venture for Racing Excellence Committee is happy to announce that the FSAE transformation is now under way. For years, the program has needed a shop/lab manager and machinist to help the students with the build portion of the program. In January 2017, Mike Arnold joined the FSAE program through a generous donation from local donors and has had an immediate impact on the program. Mike is an experienced crew leader, machinist, CAD designer, and mechanic who has been in the racing industry for close to 40 years and has worked with Unser Racing and Al Unser Jr. since 1979.

Mike's impact on the FSAE program has been both immediate and immense. Despite possessing deep engineering knowledge and designing award-winning cars, the program has been challenged by a lack of expertise in building cars that are constructed specifically for the racetrack, and the program's cramped facilities made it challenging for the team to work at their optimum efficiency. Mike has been in the racecar industry since 1975, working many years in Indy Car racing and with Al Unser Jr. and was with Unser during many of his big wins, including his first Indy 500 win in 1992. Mike's experience and focus has already improved the working environment, making it more aesthetically pleasing, organized, and efficient, which has greatly improved student workflow and interaction. He will ensure that our students make a smooth transition to the planned 3,000-5,000 square-foot modern fabrication and design lab. The likely location of the new lab is the basement of Farris Engineering Center, which has recently been vacated for the renovation of Farris, which is scheduled for completion in fall 2017.

John Russell, professor and director of FSAE since 1998, said the program receives continued support from various donors and organizations, but there are always needs, especially in an era where many such programs from bigger universities are extremely well-financed and equipped with spacious, high-tech shops in which to build their cars.

"We have old equipment and would love to have a new shop that is bigger," John said. "We rely upon longer-term donors and believers in the program, but are always looking for new support. Students in our program compete among the best-financed and best-equipped teams in the world. Our students do amazingly well with what they have, but they deserve better. The overall result of better facilities and equipment will be a better result in worldwide competitions, more sponsorships and more educational opportunities." 

Mike said once more space is gained, they can begin to look at upgrading equipment, which is decades old and often in ill-repair due to years of use by students. He said the current shop can safely hold only about 10 students at a time, and equipment must be moved out of the way to use some of the machines.

So far, donations and pledges of over our $35,000 have brought our goals much closer, and we thank you for your support! Although we have made great strides in just the silent phase of our venture, we are currently in need of additional support of around $50,000 for this crucial position of senior machinist. Our goal is to have this position fully funded by May 31, 2017.

Check out our website for more information on our phases and their projects.

We will bring you regular updates on our progress via these newsletters. If you'd like to join our effort to help fundraise, or if you'd like to contribute toward this exciting program, contact the UNM School of Engineering development team: Kara Clem, (505) 277-2051, kara.clem@unmfund.org, or Courtney Holmes at (505) 277-0664, courtg@unm.edu.