Future innovators in aerodynamics often test their technological skills in motorsports racing. And, since 2004, Ford Motor Company has sponsored and mentored teams in Formula SAE, Solar Car, SAE Super mileage and other racing series, helping racers to make their creations as aerodynamic as possible.
Utilizing the Ford automotive wind tunnel facility in Allen Park Michigan, Ford engineers help guide the teams through time and expertise. The optimization of downforce through simulations in the wind tunnel helps the racing teams to improve on traction and cornering abilities, so they can decrease lap times on the race track.
But the investment of time and expertise goes beyond this one racing moment. Many of the college students come to discover a passion for vehicle innovation through Ford’s team sponsorship experience. Tristan MacKethan, a junior at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus, was the co-aerodynamic lead for Formula SAE’s MRacing in this year’s competition. As a result of his experience, he spent the summer interning in the autonomous vehicle platform group at Ford Motor Company.
Former racing participant and captain of his Formula SAE team at U-M Ann Arbor, Joe Hendrickson, was hired by Ford as a systems engineer following his graduation in 2015. “With this program, you’re using your degree before you even get out of school,” Hendrickson says, according to the Ford Motor Company Media Center. “You’re used to changing things around, collaborating, trying new things. That’s helped me immensely in my position at Ford.”