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Vanderbilt University Motorsports and MSC Software for Formula SAE

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The Vanderbilt Motorsports Team comprised of students ranging from first-years to seniors spanning various engineering disciplines works year round to design, fabricate, test, and market a small Formula car for the international competition in Michigan known as FSAE Michigan. These students engage in this competition to gain hands-on experience working together as an engineering company producing a high-performance vehicle. One of the important tools that Vanderbilt Motorsports (VUM) uses to confidently design components for the Formula car is the FEA software MSC Nastran and Patran donated by MSC Software.

Because VUM is producing a high-performance vehicle, the parts must be both strong and light. These qualities are generally inversely proportional so a balance is sought between the two. MSC Nastran and Patran gives VUM the computing power to make sure that suspension components will not fail while transmitting wheel loads to the chassis. Not only must the parts not fail, but they must also last through many cycles of use so that the Formula car can have a reasonably marketable life span.

MSC Nastran and Patran were also used to simulate the steel space frame chassis designed and constructed by Vanderbilt Motorsports to predict its torsional rigidity. These simulations show how the chassis will flex during hard cornering and will be checked with physical testing so that the students can be certain the simulations are properly set up. Simulating the chassis stiffness in MSC Nastran and Patran allows the team to quickly iterate through several chassis designs in a relatively short time compared to only relying on physical testing.

Vanderbilt University Motorsports thanks MSC Software for their generous support and for helping the students prepare for work as professional engineers.


Images of the Chassis as constructed and as modeled: