Provost takes engineering students’ race car for a test drive

Ready to race!

It was all systems go recently at the College of Engineering & Computing as FIU Provost and Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton suited up and took a race car for a test drive around the Engineering Center.

This wasn’t just any race car – it was a Formula SAE race car built entirely from scratch by engineering students who are part of the FIU chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), also known as Panther Motorsports.

“It was very exciting to learn how the various engineering disciplines collaborate to take this car from concept to reality and see firsthand what’s involved in designing a race car. But the best part, of course, was taking it for a test drive,” said Furton, who happens to be a Formula One enthusiast and volunteers as a pit reporter for the International Motorsports Association (IMSA) races at Sebring International Speedway. (For those not familiar with motorsports, a pit stop is where a car stops during a race to refuel, change tires, make repairs and adjustments, and change drivers if necessary.)

Dean Volakis and Provost Furton in the machine shop with a student and Professor Tremante (background).

In addition to driving the vehicle, the provost spent some time with the engineering students in the machine shop – learning about the work involved in building the car.

“Our students are both innovative and hard working. They were working with limited funds, yet they designed and built this car using their resourcefulness to create a phenomenal machine,” said John L. Volakis, dean of the College of Engineering & Computing.

A week earlier, FIU’s engineering students and their car were on the track at the Homestead Miami Speedway for a race-car competition that they organized. The provost also attended the competition.

Provost Furton helps push the car to the track, just like they do in professional racing.

“It means a lot to us that the provost took the time to show his support,” said Ignacio Hernandez, vice president of Panther Motorsports. “His participation creates awareness throughout the university about engineering students and how we apply engineering theories, in this case, to a race car.”

The speedway competition was designed for university engineering students to get hands-on training and learn from each other. Teams from University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University joined FIU at the first-ever event at the track.

Provost Furton surrounded by Panther Motorsports team, Dr. Volakis and Dr. Tremante.

“Events like this competition are important for students to learn how to solve engineering problems and make adjustments to their cars to improve the vehicle’s performance,” said Andres Tremante, an FIU mechanical engineering professor and advisor for Panther Motorsports. “It’s one thing to learn things in the classroom and quite another to experience it in the real world. This competition allows students to apply what they have learned and then improve on it.”

Check out the whole Instagram story posted to FIU’s Instagram account: 


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