Vehicle Performance Engineering Lab Renovated, Unveiled

Vehicle Performance Engineering LabMarch 13, 2019 - UC Irvine Anteater Racing has a freshly refurbished workspace, thanks to the generous support of parents and some industry friends. More than 150 students and their parents, faculty, staff and industry supporters turned out over the weekend to peek at the new Vehicle Performance Engineering Lab.

Anteater Racing is a student-led senior design project at the Samueli School of Engineering. With a strong core of students from mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering, the teams design, build and test racecars for the annual Collegiate Design Series sponsored by SAE International.  These vehicles are also the highlight of UCI’s Energy Invitational.

The workspace is now equipped with professional-grade tools for each of the three racecar teams; new cabinetry, shelves, work benches and epoxy flooring; upgraded electrical, lighting and compressed-air systems; new signage and a fresh coat of paint.

After a light lunch and reception on the Engineering Gateway patio, the crowd went downstairs for a ribbon cutting and unveiling of the three racecar chassis. Samueli School Dean Gregory Washington welcomed everyone and thanked all those involved in the project including facilities staff, Sonic Tools, Robert Clarke (retired president of Honda Performance Development), students and their families. 

“When I first came to UCI, the racing program was engaging but fledging,” said Washington. “There was one professor spearheading the program and that was Professor Mike McCarthy. Today, we have some others involved, including Mark Walter. And now with a facility like this, we expect nothing but first place from our teams!”

“I am honored to be the advisor for these UCI race teams,” said McCarthy. “Our senior projects give each student team responsibility for all of its decisions.  And everyone who sees what they are doing worries that there are not enough resources. But we have seen time and again that the biggest challenge is learning to trust each other. And when their intelligence and commitment align there is no stopping them.”

Clarke, who provided consultation and design suggestions on the lab, was pleased with the renovation. “How can you teach a top engineering program without the right facility?” he asked. “This new lab is a total transformation. It looks how a professional racing shop should look.”

Chris McMurry is one of the parent donors who helped make it happen. McMurray said that his son Matt, a third-year aerospace engineering major, made his way down to the race lab his first day as a freshman. “I don’t think he ever left,” said Chris. “He spent 40 to 60 hours a week there.

“When we came as parents to visit, we saw a bunch of kids like Matt, who were really invested in what they were doing and loving it, having the time of their life,” said Chris, a former racing driver himself. “But the lab was hindering their progress. I believe it is so important to support that kind of passion. When people love what they’re doing, they do their best work.”

McMurry was pleased to see how fast the school of engineering was able to use the parents’ generous gift and upgrade the lab in six months. “It says something about their intense desire to see the kids succeed, “he said.

Like his father before him, Matt is a racecar driver. In 2014, he became the first junior development driver for Dyson Racing and a few months later, at the age of 16 years and 202 days old, became the youngest driver to participate in and finish the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Matt enjoys being part of Anteater Racing. “It’s competitive and you learn a lot. You are thrown into the deep end and have to figure everything out. It takes a lot of teamwork.”

Anteater Racing manager Christopher Chen, a fourth-year aerospace engineering major, thanked everyone for coming and for supporting Anteater Racing. “This program has made me a better engineer and a better person. When I first joined, though, we didn’t really have a lab; it was more of a greasy shed. Now we have this beautiful renovated building, thanks to our families and sponsors. I believe we will have the most successful cars in Anteater Racing history.”

– Lori Brandt


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