It was a proud moment for Pakistan to have its youth participate in a world-famous event in the US — the Formula SAE Lincoln 2016, a leading American student design competition —and be the only team from Asia to qualify.

In the competition held at the end of June, PNEC-NUST students from Karachi presented their SAE Formula Electric Car, and bagged the 16th position among 33 teams that comprised those from universities such as MIT and McGill.

The Formula SAE Lincoln is an engineering project that is highly valued by universities and usually forms part of a degree level project. Every year students build a single-seat formula race car which can compete against teams from all over the world.

Abdul Aleem, Shariq Waqar, Ahsan Lakhani, Imran Riaz and Muhammad Taha Rizvi were the PNEC-NUST students who have made the nation proud by making this special car in a country where there is no Formula Racing know-how available, especially for electric vehicles, nor any facilities or previous experience that could help these hardworking, bright students. Thus making such a car was a huge challenge for them and their determination made it happen.

Abdul Aleem, the team leader, explained what Formula SAE was all about.” Formula SAE is a student design competition organised by SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers). The first competition was started in 1979. The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company makes a contract with a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving. Formula SAE encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances.”

The SAE competition is known to be an engineering challenge. A formula-styled electrical vehicle was considered too difficult a project to take on, considering the resources required. But, based on previous experience, the team believed they had the capacity to make it happen and the desire to represent Pakistan at this stage was a real inspiration.

Abdul Aleem, explained how the project started, “We pitched the idea to our faculty advisor, Capt. Dr Faisal Amir, who welcomed it. Then began a recruitment and research phase. We came across several great students and a team of 22 which includes two girls, was formed. The next natural step was to look for sponsors. Motorsport engineering projects are known to be expensive, and we realised finding sponsors would be a major challenge. We raised some funds on our own, through family and friends, but it was not enough. Everything has to be done by the students and teachers are not allowed to help.”

Their fund problem was solved when a bank sponsored them through their ‘Rising Talent Programme’. Getting and keeping the team together also proved to be a demanding task due to many hurdles. Most parts of the car weren’t available in Pakistan so they had to be imported, thus increasing the costs.

“We made our best efforts. But since this was our first time in this competition, the on-ground proceedings of the competition weren’t quite known to us. And the fact that we were competing with universities like MIT and McGill made it even more challenging. But we didn’t lose hope and gave it our best shot and were optimistic of the event and I think bagging the 16th position in our first attempt is a good start,” said a beaming Abdul Aleem.

Published in Dawn, Young World, July 16th, 2016

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