Zachary Koller, co-captain of Pellissippi State Motorsports, in the 2022 race car

Pellissippi State Motorsports co-captain Zachary Koller, in driver seat, and his fellow teammates show off their 2022 race car ahead of the Formula SAE Michigan competition next week. (Photo by Benjamin Murphy)

Can Pellissippi State Motorsports improve on their sixth-place finish in the Formula SAE competition last year? 

The team will travel to Michigan International Speedway June 15-18 to compete against 47 other teams from four-year universities across the United States as well as from Canada and Mexico. Pellissippi State Motorsports will still be the only team fielded by a community college. 

Formula SAE competitions challenge teams of university undergraduate and graduate students to conceive, design, fabricate, develop and compete with small, formula style vehicles. Each competition gives teams the chance to demonstrate their creativity and engineering skills in comparison to teams from other universities around the world. 

Pellissippi State Motorsports first competed at Formula SAE Michigan in 2019. Last year in Formula SAE Nevada, the team finished in sixth place overall as well as sixth in the Acceleration event, beating larger schools like Purdue University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas, despite a sweltering heat wave that shortened the window teams had to get their cars to pass tech and safety checks and then complete the competition’s four events.  

 “Thankfully, the race in Michigan should lack some of the challenges Las Vegas had like overheating and early ride times,” said Pellissippi State Motorsports co-captains Zachary Koller and Daniel Rasmussen during a sneak peek at the car on the College’s Hardin Valley Campus. 

Pellissippi State Motorsports did not stop there, however. The team also participated in the Pittsburgh Shootout last August, a one-day event of Formula SAE teams focusing on driving distance, to gather more data about their car, and they used these insights to make decisions about how to improve their car for the 2022 competition. Additions such as a composite steering wheel, new radiator hose and one-piece shifter have decreased the weight of the race car for better ergonomics.  

Pellissippi State Motorsports teammates, sponsor Lynn Klett and President L. Anthony Wise Jr. with the 2022 race car

Pellissippi State Motorsports teammates, team sponsor Associate Professor Lynn Klett (third from right) and Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. (far right) give a sneak peek of the team’s 2022 race car. (Photo by Benjamin Murphy)

“[The car’s design] is mostly dictated by the rules, and everything else is engineering practices,”  Koller explained, noting that the team’s goal for the car is to find ways to make it smaller and lighter.  

Continuity could be a challenge for a community college where students often graduate or transfer after two years. However, Pellissippi State Motorsports welcomes University of Tennessee and Maryville College students who serve as volunteers and pay their own way to competition.  

“The Formula SAE program at Pellissippi State has helped many of our past team members get related jobs in the industry — positions with Honda research and development, Lexus IMSA Race Team and Toyota research and development,” Koller and Rasmussen said. The resume boost the program adds has been beneficial for previous and hopefully current and future members.”

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This story was written by Benjamin Murphy, intern for Pellissippi State Marketing and Communications, summer 2022.