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Speeding Bullet

September 10, 2013

When Buckeyes chase a world speed record, their education--and future careers--hit the fast lane.

Buckeye Bullet

If you want to push the limits of alternative fuel technology, build an electric car that can drive nearly as fast as a jet plane can fly.

That’s the goal of the Venturi Buckeye Bullet Racing Team in September 2013: to break its own record as the world’s fastest electric vehicle.

In 2010, the Bullet flew across the Bonneville Salt Flats at 307 miles per hour--a speed few gasoline-powered land vehicles can attain.

Ultimately, the project prepares students for high-level careers in the automotive industry, where hybrid and electric cars are expected to account for more than half of new vehicle sales by 2030. Students could also set their sights on professional motorsports, where a new all-electric racing competition called Formula E is set to take off worldwide in 2014.

"Our students will be building the vehicles of the future," says Giorgio Rizzoni, director of Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR). "They are greatly valued by industry--auto companies pursue them not only for internships, but also for employment."

The 14 current team members include graduate and undergraduate students majoring in mechanical, electrical, aerospace, welding and materials engineering, as well as design, communications and business. More than 100 students have devoted time to the all-volunteer program since it began.

Team leader David Cooke, a master’s student in mechanical engineering, explained that, traditionally, students don’t have the opportunity for much hands-on experience before they graduate. "The motorsports programs we have here at CAR really close that gap," he says.

Students not only conceive the car, but manufacture it. They verify the safety, strength and expected performance of every original part they design. Most parts--including the chassis and suspension--they fabricate themselves in CAR’s machine shop.  For the few parts that students can’t make themselves, they collaborate with industry on the pricing, lead-time and quality of each item, to make all the pieces work together at top performance.

In short, they become experts in the details of science, technology, business and strategy that lead to one exhilarating moment, when a single car might make history--again.