About Us

Clemson Formula SAE competes on an international level through competitions hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE). Each year we design and build a new vehicle from the ground up that meets the competition rules and pushes for innovation. The summer and fall is spent designing the new vehicle. Our design process includes producing a full CAD model, testing and validating through numerous methods, along with partaking in design reviews featuring faculty and industry members. Toward the end of the fall we transition into the build phase that will continue through mid-spring. The vast majority of our vehicle is produced in-house through various machining and assembly processes. For some of our more complex machining, drawings and manufacturing files are generated to be sent out for production. The end of the spring semester is spent testing and fine tuning the vehicle in order to prepare for the main SAE competitions that take place early and mid-summer.

Our team can be broken down into seven divisions that interact in a fluid and collaborative manner to create the bigger picture. You can read more about each of these divisions and the impact they have on the team as a whole below.

Divisional Breakdown

Business Division

Formula SAE is about a much larger picture than just engineering. Being a part of the business division provides an unparalleled collegiate experience in all aspects of running a small business. The divisional members spend a considerable amount of time recruiting as well as maintaining sponsor relationships. Our organization is not possible without our sponsors, making sponsorship relations possibly the most important aspect of the team. The business division gains real world business experience through management of the team's finances and yearly budget. Students also gain experience in organizing events such as fundraisers and team social events. Marketing is becoming ever more omnipotent in our society and our business team works hard to embrace it through graphic design and social media. Members develop their speaking skills through many presentations to alumni, investors, and judges. In addition, a major portion of the Formula SAE competitions includes a presentation marketing the vehicle to a weekend autocross client. 


Outboard Division

Outboard Division concerns itself primarily with connecting suspension and powertrain components to the wheels. This includes the design of components such as uprights, wheel hubs, brake calipers, brake rotors, differential,and half-shafts. Suspension design, as well as geometry of the wheel, need to be considered while designing these components. The design process also tends to be analysis heavy for it is critical that these systems, especially braking systems, not fail. The upright, hubs, and braking components are all subjected to complicated dynamic loading as the vehicle moves and it is imperative that these loadings are understood and accounted for as a failure in an outboard component can cripple a team. A lot of time is put into testing and validation to create accurate load cases that outboard components experience so tools such as finite element analysis can give accurate results. While it is easy to make a safe design, the challenge comes from the constant struggle to reduce un-sprung mass. An ounce of mass removed in outboard is worth considerably more than an ounce removed from the chassis in terms of performance. Therefore a perfect balance between safety and lightness remains the constant goal of outboard division.


Chassis Division

The chassis division deals primarily with the development of the vehicle’s space frame. This involves pulling together the suspension and drivetrain geometry in order to create a platform that carefully packages all of the vehicle’s components, while maintaining the characteristics of the vehicle set by the other divisions. Collaboration of all subsystems is very important in the development of the chassis in order to ensure all components are packaged properly and there are no clearance issues. The chassis division is also responsible for the ergonomics of the vehicle. It is important to ensure that the driver will be comfortable at all times and not hindered by the vehicle in any way from driving at their full potential. The spaceframe is designed through 3D CAD software along with finite element software used for analyzing loads and torsional properties. Other components developed by the chassis division include the pedals, steering wheel, dash, firewall, seat, and impact attenuator. The vehicle build process for the chassis division involves a large amount of jigging and assembling in addition to metal fabrication and composites work. Lastly, time is put into validating the design of many of the components through physical testing to ensure they will perform as intended.

Suspension Division

The suspension division's role pertains to the design and manufacturing of the suspension system and steering components. The suspension system includes the A-arms, dampers, shocks, push/pull rods, tie rods, rockers, anti-roll bars and all the associated mounts to connect to the frame. The design of the suspension and steering geometry starts with using computer software that helps analyze and optimize tire data, vehicle kinematics, and vehicle dynamics. 3D CAD software with finite element analysis is used for various load cases when designing all of the corresponding suspension components. Following the design of the many suspension components, manufacturing starts. One important responsibility of the division is jigging of all the suspension and steering mounts on the frame. This process is important to insure that all the suspension and steering components are in the correct spot relative to the frame in order to produce the designed vehicle dynamics. Once the car is finished, test days are utilized in order to fully tune the suspension system. Tuning the suspension is extremely important to ensure a great handling characteristics and fast lap times. Suspension tuning involves many variables including adjusting tire pressures, camber, toe, spring rates, and compression and rebound damping. Based on collected data and driver feedback these variables are adjusted to increase the car’s performance on the track.


Aerodynamics Division

The aerodynamics and composites division’s responsibilities are development of the aerodynamic elements of the car and manufacturing all vehicle components made of fiber composites. The main aerodynamic components that are used to increase the performance of the car are the front wing, rear wing, and the undertray of the vehicle. Collectively known as the aerodynamics package, these elements work together to help push the car to the ground, allowing it to take corners faster and brake later. The design of the aerodynamics package is a balance of numerous parameters, such as weight, downforce, drag, vehicle stability, and complexity of manufacturing. To help in this endeavor, Computational Fluid Dynamics software (often shortened to CFD) is used to simulate the car traveling through the air in order to guide our designs and maximize performance for the car. The aerodynamics division must work closely with the suspension division to maintain vehicle stability with the increased load, the powertrain division to ensure the engine components are properly cooled, and the chassis division to create rigid mounting structures for all the aerodynamic elements. Once the parts are physically made, validation and testing of the aerodynamic package is crucial to maximizing total vehicle performance. The composites side of the division is responsible for the design and manufacturing of any component made of composite materials. This includes the body panels, floor, firewall and headrest in addition to the wings and undertray of the aerodynamics package. Composite manufacturing allows for much lighter parts to be made and greater freedom in the design of those parts. By using composite materials, we can put the strength in the part where it is needed and provide a lighter structure where it is not.


Electrical Division

The electrical division is responsible for designing and manufacturing the wiring harness, and electrical devices for the car. This includes the power distribution module, engine control unit (ECU), and dashboard. The team uses electrical wiring software along with PCB software in order to cleanly package the electrical devices in the car. The electrical division is also responsible for the integration of data logging tools and sensors. This includes wiring in new sensors and setting up the data logging parameters for each division. CUFSAE provides students with the opportunity for complete hands on electrical experience in a world where most hands on experience is rapidly becoming obsolete in student's education.

Powertrain Division

The powertrain division is responsible for the design and manufacture of the vehicle’s engine, transmission and auxiliary systems. This includes the engine, exhaust, intake, muffler, oiling system, and gearing. Every year the team uses simulation software to determine the optimal parameters for the systems in order to maximize the power output of the powertrain package. The team then turns to 3D modeling software in order to create designs around these optimized parameters before manufacturing them. Careful consideration is paid to cleanly and easily package components in a serviceable fashion. Metal fabrication along with rapid prototyping is then used in order to create the components that the vehicle incorporates. Once the package has been created, the focus of the powertrain division is moved to setting up a proper engine tune for the vehicle that will keep the engine in a reliable state throughout competition. The engine is tuned on the in-house water brake dyno before the car is completed, and this is followed by careful analysis of logged data from the finished car.

Click the engineering divisions on the diagram above for more information.