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Going full throttle for PIR

March 31, 2016

Looming deadline for appearance at Phoenix International Raceway has ASU race car team battling stress, expectations

Editor’s note: This is the latest installation in a yearlong series about ASU's Formula SAEFormula SAE is a student design competition organized by the International Society of Automotive Engineers (now known as SAE International). team. Find links to previous stories at the end of this article.

These are the times that try men’s souls.

While the student engineers building a Formula-style car for competition in June aren’t inspiring a revolution like Thomas Paine, they are battling the tensions that always accompany great struggles.

Infighting. Disagreements. Discord.

They’re not pretty, but they’re a feature of every one of man’s great accomplishments, from the Shackleton expedition’s escape from Antarctica to the launch of the Voyager spacecraft. To suggest otherwise would be disingenuous.

The pressure notched up March 18, when news arrived that the team had secured a $10 million insurance policy to drive the pace car lap at the Indy car races at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2.

Insurance requirements for either a pace car lap or a booth at the raceway had been insurmountable, so the team was resigned to missing the event. Now they were faced with turning a (mostly) completed engine, a completed chassis and a pile of components into a car.

In about two weeks.

The cry went out across email, for shop days, shop nights, shop afternoons: “WE NEED YOU!” “Shop Night TONIGHT!” “Shop Day for IndyCar event.”

A student engineer works on the chassis of a race car.

Gede Andiyastika measure
segments of the frame for
welding tabs to connect
the underbody tray on
March 30 in Tempe.

Photo by Charlie
Leight/ASU Now

Since the announcement about the insurance, the team has been working to complete eight major tasks, each of which has countless sub-tasks. About 10 to 20 team members have been in the shop every night.

“I honestly had a hard time making sure I say the right things correctly,” chief engineer Wes Kudela said last Saturday. “It’s hard to motivate people to make the final push.”

With a huge raceway appearance and a $10 million insurance policy in hand, “we expected people to be fired up,” said Kudela, a senior in mechanical engineering. Leap Carpenter Kemps provided the insurance, at no cost to the team. “We owe these people our 100 percent effort.”

The abrupt deadline has caused tension between the leadership and the team, both admit. A deadline like this is going to cause issues in any endeavor, no matter how well it’s going, and that’s not taught in any classroom.

“Not what I was hoping to tell you at this point,” said team manager Troy Buhr, a junior in mechanical engineering. “I can’t tell you otherwise.”

Sub team leaders said getting the car running in two weeks was unrealistic, with the team divided on their chances.

Everyone has been making sacrifices. A tough challenge is made even tougher by the fact that team members have classes and jobs on the side. Spare time, recreation, relaxation — these are pipe dreams.

“In between classes I’ll either be contacting companies to try and get parts or I’ll go to the shop to work on something,” said vehicle systems lead engineer Curtis Swift, a senior in mechanical engineering. “Also, there is definitely less sleep due to staying late at the shop or waking up early to get into the machine shop.”

Manufacturing and shop manager Arik Jacobson, a sophomore in automotive systems engineering, said he has been going without sleep.

“Sleep has been the majority of the sacrifice since I still have class plus I have a job and Formula to attend to,” he said. “We have put some projects on hold until we get the car to the event.”

“As the Grand Prix approaches a lot of my relaxation time starts becoming ‘build racecar time,’” said brake team leader Colin Twist, a junior in mechanical engineering. “Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

The engine is mounted and headers from the old car have been mounted for the raceway appearance.

“There’s a lot of that going on,” Buhr said. “Scrapping stuff from the old car.”

“This’ll help us out later, figuring out placement,” said team captain Pranav Mamidi, a senior in mechanical engineering. “It speeds up the process later significantly. ... There’s something we’ve learned working about cars. Nothing ever goes to plan. ... Our goal is competition, not (the raceway appearance).”

There is a fair amount of mocking up assemblies on the car, Swift said.

“We have to hurry and get everything finished for PIR so even if we don’t have the parts yet we still have to figure out how everything will fit and mount into the car, which makes things difficult,” he said.

Jacobson said they are doing their best to ensure 100 percent quality. No corners are being cut anywhere.

“The motto in our shop is, ‘Aim for perfection’ and we realize that we are learning and this means we shoot for the absolute best result and a lot of the times we get really close and we accept that and learn from each experience,” he said. “There have been some temporary tabs put on the car, but we have plans to try and integrate those into the final design. We are in no way cutting any corners to our end product.”

Kudela said whatever happens, he will be proud of the team and the results they have to show at the raceway on Saturday.

“Whatever we pull off at this point, we have something pretty incredible to show at the team booth,” he said.

Find the group's PitchFunder page here:

Previous stories in this series:

Oct. 14: Tempe Drift: How an underdog student engineering team is building a race car from the ground up.

Nov. 4: Racing time and money to build a fast car.

Dec. 10: Braking bad: Pressure is on for ASU student engineers building race car

Dec. 17: No brake: ASU team powers through to edge closer to race car

Feb. 1: Coming into the home stretch

March 8: Starting to look like a car

March 29: One step closer to PIR

Luoma appointed associate vice president for University Business Services

March 31, 2016

Nichol Luoma, an accomplished business executive and ASU alumna, is the new associate vice president for University Business Services and University Sustainability Operations officer at Arizona State University. She reports directly to Morgan R. Olsen, ASU executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer.

Since November 2015, Luoma served as associate vice president and University Sustainability Operations officer in an interim capacity. She will oversee more than a dozen ASU functions, including: procurement, ASU Parking and Transit, Sun Devil Card Services, materials management, risk management, environmental health and safety, trademark management and the University Club. head shot of ASU's Nichol Luoma Nichol Luoma has been named the new associate vice president for University Business Services and University Sustainability Operations officer at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

Before her associate vice president interim appointment, Luoma served as ASU’s chief procurement officer, responsible for procurement and contracting. Under her leadership, ASU procurement was honored in 2015 with the Achievement of Excellence in Procurement award from the National Procurement Institute for the seventh consecutive year. Procurement also was recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's Sustainable Campus index as No. 1 in the purchasing category.

“Nichol Luoma has the skills, dedication and communication abilities to manage the diverse demands of the associate vice president and sustainability operations officer position,” Olsen said. “Since 2012, Nichol has worked collaboratively across ASU to help drive cross-functional process improvements and optimization of supplier relationships in support of the New American University mission.”

“We are very pleased that Nichol will continue to be part of our senior leadership team, leading university business services and coordinating our institutional sustainability initiatives,” Olsen added.

Luoma has more than 16 years of global business operations leadership experience. She returned to her alma mater in a professional capacity in 2012 after serving as vice president of operations for two juvenile products companies, Boon Inc. and Keen Distribution, both of which were acquired by Tomy International in 2011. Before Boon and Keen, Luoma spent nearly a decade in multiple business and supply chain roles at Intel Corporation, which included management of complex international supply chains. She also served Clarkston Consulting in a senior business-consulting role, where she advised large corporate clients on business/technology redesign and supply chain optimization.

“I believe that my new role provides me with an outstanding opportunity to simplify and enhance business operations that deliver excellent service to students, faculty and staff,” Luoma said. “The educational path I chose early in life has brought me full circle to my maroon-and-gold roots. I am grateful and eager to begin this new life chapter at the institution to which I attribute much of my business success.”

Luoma graduated summa cum laude from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business and Barrett, the Honors College with a bachelor’s degree in supply chain management. She also was a W. P. Carey School of Business Outstanding Graduating Senior. She received her MBA from Duke University, where she also graduated summa cum laude and was honored as a Fuqua Scholar.