Burning up the SAE highway


With accolades from international competitions rolling in, the Oakland University Formula Society of Automotive Engeering team is garnering more recognition with each passing year.

The team, which has produced a $25,000 Formula SAE car every year for two decades, has grown into the second largest SAE group in Michigan, 12th largest in the country.

“I’ve learned a lot from my classes, and I love them, but that’s nothing compared to the hands-on experience you get here,” said club President, Sindy Zaki, a fourth year Computer and Electronic Engineering major at OU.

Zaki recently took the position in July, but has been with the group for over a year. She approached the job with enthusiasm for making improvements where needed. 

“We needed a little more direction, and I was out here all the time,” said Zaki. “I saw the opportunity and decided to step up.”

Looking back, Zaki sees that the group’s enthusiasm for engineering is what drove her.

“At Oakland, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a team that was so passionate,” said Zaki. “It’s refreshing. Who else would you want to work with, other than people who just love what they’re doing?”

The group was not without it’s afflictions, and struggled to grow when first formed in the early 90’s.

“There was a time when this team would go to competitions and not even pass tech inspection,” said Zaki.

Group senior, Stephen Parker, getting his master’s in Mechanical Engineering at OU, suggests that the group’s size was the cause of its early problems.“When I started, we had a bare-bones group that was really strong in engineering,” said Parker. “But there weren’t many people, so it became really hard to take on a project like this.”

Zaki added that in the weeks leading to the Michigan International Speedway Collegiate Competition, where 120 cars enter from around the world, team members rarely sleep.

“For those two weeks I don’t shut an eye, and I know no one else does either,” said Zaki. “We’re trying to change up our schedule this year to be more on time, so we’re not working down to the last second.”

Zaki sees strength in teamwork and reliability as a way to improve time management. 

“Nothing compares to being put into the position where you have to get something done, have a deadline, or people are relying on you to get it done.”

Finishing 12th in this year’s Formula West Competition, Zaki sees that the team has room to improve with many directions to take.

“We’ve improved year-to-year, whether that be by ten places or just a few, but we continue to improve,” said Zaki. “I think that if we keep doing that, we’ll have a solid chance at being a top-ten team in no time.”

Parker sees the next phase in the team’s life to be an international one.

“I think the next logical step for this team would be to compete in Europe,” said Parker. “We’re kind of to that level, where we have a relatively competitive car over there. We’re a little bit off the pace, dynamically, but hopefully that can change.” Zaki hopes to bring in as many people as she can to help the group further thrive and achieve its ambitious goals. 

“It’s really about your work ethic here, and how much you’re willing to learn–how much you’re going to put yourself out there,” said Zaki.