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Race to the Finish Line

Students design and build a Formula-style race car in less than 10 months.

Team smiles around a Northwestern branded race car
From left, Northwestern Formula Racing members Cameron Estrada, Sarah Yung, Charlie Seifert, Drake Vogelpohl and Joshua Feist ’23, ’23 MS.Image: Courtesy of Cameron Estrada

By Madaleine Rubin
Winter 2024

Last fall, students buzzed around the University’s Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, dry-erase markers in hand, covering several whiteboards with sketches of wheel assemblies, machine dimensions and other design ideas for a fastmoving project: building a race car. And by late spring, more than 60 Northwestern undergrad and grad students will bring those plans to life. 

Each year, Northwestern Formula Racing designs and manufactures a Formula-style race car. These single-seat vehicles have open cockpits and wheels outside the car’s main body. At a Society of Automotive Engineers competition each spring, Northwestern students race their car against hundreds of other college teams’ entries. Judges evaluate each car for its overall design, acceleration, endurance and more. 

Open to students with all levels of engineering experience — including no experience — Northwestern Formula Racing is a “barrier-free organization,” says project manager Skye Garcia, a junior journalism major. This year, the team will build an electric vehicle for only the second time in the club’s history. With less than 10 months to prepare, students must learn and work quickly. 

“I’ve made some of my best friends here and [gained] a lot of cool new skills,” says Garcia. “I made a fuel tank!” 

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