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Michigan SAE Chapter Wins at SAE World Congress

When several ME students returned to campus from the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, held at Cobo Center in mid-April, they came home with more than sleep deprivation and dozens of new professional contacts.
group,Michigan SAE Chapter
The students were part of the campus chapter of SAE, which won first prize in the annual SAE Detroit Section Student Exhibit Competition. The victory brings with it a financial award of $1,250.

All student chapters of SAE were eligible to compete, and participants included chapters from Canada and Ghana. "They came from as close as five minutes away from Cobo Hall to halfway around the world--that was kind of cool," said Kelly Karakashian, the chapter's immediate past president.

In their allotted exhibit space in the Congress' exhibition hall, the U-M students displayed several posters depicting MSAE events held over the past year and vehicle team accomplishments. The FormulaSAE 2004 Wolverine was on display as well.

Exhibits were judged on technical content, teamwork and project management and overall quality. Each chapter also had to make a brief presentation to a panel of judges. That took place "bright and early," one morning of the Congress, said Karakashian, who spoke for the chapter. By mid-afternoon winners had been announced.

car,SAECar"The University of Michigan chapter did an excellent job focusing on the five judging categories, and their enthusiasm about SAE showed throughout their exhibit and presentation," said Renee´ Bovair, program director for the SAE Detroit Section.

Karakashian was "excited" when she heard the news, but not terribly surprised given the level of effort members expended. "Everyone did such a great job setting up the booth and maintaining it--we took shifts. Our events coordinator did tons of work, everyone did, and we were hoping this would be the year we'd take first," she said. "We took third last year, and we decided we were going for everything this year since the chapter really grew."

That growth is no accident, but rather part of the board's strategy to increase membership through "as many activities as possible so that we could advertise like crazy that we have an SAE chapter on campus," according to Karakashian. "U-M has the auto lab here that does tons of research, and so many students here love cars and the auto industry but they don't even know we're here. The idea was to find those people and get them to join in our events."

It's the number and type of events that she believes may have given MSAE an edge in the competition. "Many chapters have vehicle teams, but what we do outside of our teams is what makes us special." And the chapter does a lot: a lecture series, a trip to the North American International Auto Show, tours of the U-M Transportation Research Institute, and joint activities with other groups, including the University Minority Mechanical Engineers, the campus chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the SAE Detroit Section.

"I've noticed the incredible dedication of many students towards the success of the SAE student chapter at U-M," said Associate Professor Volker Sick, who has served as faculty advisor since July 2004. "Their first place at the SAE World Congress reflects this. I'm proud to be the advisor of the group, and I'm looking forward to many more exciting events and recognitions."

The $1,250 prize will be split with the FormulaSAE team and put in the chapter's general fund to pay for activities in the coming year, including an expanded lecture series, a car show and more joint activities.

Karakashian is graduating--and will work for Chrysler while she pursues a master's degree--but she believes next year will be even better for MSAE under incoming president Chris Marchese. "This rejuvenated our chapter. It got everyone excited for next year and motivated them at a time when it's easy to get weighed down. It was a great way to end the year--it capped off all our efforts to make the chapter bigger and better for the university."

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