Student Motorsports Move Forward Despite Pandemic

Posted: July 31, 2020

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) is home to five active student motorsports teams: Formula Buckeyes SAE, Baja Buckeyes, EcoCAR, Buckeye Current and Underwater Robotics. While the COVID-19 pandemic altered competitions this year, the teams are still working hard to meet their goals and prepare for next year.

Formula Buckeyes SAE

Buckeye formula car

Formula Buckeyes SAE competes with other collegiate teams to design and build the best racecar. The yearly competition involves both static and dynamic events that judge each team’s vehicle. This year, Formula Buckeyes earned good feedback in a virtual competition of the static events: cost, design and business presentation.

Since the virtual competition in early June, the team has transitioned into preparation for the 2020-2021 academic year. Aerodynamics Director Matthew Kronheimer says that the team is using the summer to improve team operations and begin designing the next vehicle. “The design is an evolution,” he says. “We don’t start from scratch every year.”

The team is spending a lot of time on Zoom, both to plan for the year ahead and to maintain connection between members. Like the other teams, the Formula Buckeyes are preparing to hit the ground running once the university reopens.

Baja Buckeyes SAE

Photo of the Baja Buckeyes team and vehicle

Every year, the Baja Buckeyes SAE take on the task of designing, fabricating and racing an off-road vehicle to compete with other universities and colleges around the world in annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competitions.

The team has continued developing their skills and understanding of the engineering design cycle with the focus now shifted to the Baja SAE Static events. These events include the Design Presentation, Sales Presentation and Cost Event.

“We met two times a week via Zoom to discuss updates and do a deeper virtual analysis of our design in preparation for these events,” said Baja Team President, Hayden Hartman. “Typically, this analysis and preparation was relatively overlooked since so much time and effort was spent completing the manufacturing and testing of the car.”

The added time that the team devoted to these events paid off. The Baja Buckeyes placed 15th overall in the virtual competition.

With the feedback the team received from the virtual competition, an already half-built car, and a great amount of commitment from the team members, the outlook for the Baja Buckeyes 2020-2021 season is very bright.

Ohio State EcoCAR


The Ohio State EcoCAR team at the EcoCAR Winter Workshop in Austin Texas.The 2019-2020 academic year marked Year 2 of the four-year EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, a competition in which 12 collegiate teams apply advanced propulsion systems and connected and automated vehicle technology to improve the energy efficiency, safety and consumer appeal of a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.

When Ohio State shut down most in-person facilities and events, the EcoCAR team had a few weeks of vehicle integration and testing to complete before competition, which was scheduled for May in Arizona. The competition was largely cancelled, though a virtual competition allowed the team to submit deliverables and give online presentations. To adjust to the cancellation, the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge will add events to the Year 3 competition.

Ohio State’s EcoCAR team is completing all possible virtual work and creating a plan to ensure that they can be as efficient as possible once a return to campus is allowed. In the meantime, team members check in with weekly Zoom meetings and frequent communication over Slack about everything from engineering to the dog of the day.

Buckeye Current

Buckeye current dirt bike

Buckeye Current is a largely undergraduate team that recently began building electric dirt bikes. Current switched from electric motorcycles to electric dirt bikes in November in order to pursue more choices for their competition.

Because the team was already undergoing a transition year, Team Lead Matt Wise says that COVID-19 restrictions haven’t put them too far behind their goals. The team is taking the summer to improve their organizational structure and plan for the fall, in hopes that they will be able to recruit and teach new members and compete next year. For more about the transition, click here.

Underwater Robotics


Ohio State’s Underwater Robotics team is a group of undergraduates that design, build and program a robot to navigate underwater obstacle courses. This year, their competition was cancelled, but the team is still progressing toward their goals.

In the past year, the team built a simulator to facilitate testing; it is currently enabling the team to test software without in-person testing. This summer, the team is improving their organizational structure and plans to finish designing an entirely new robot so that in the fall, they can begin its manufacture.

Team President Collin Barack says that Underwater Robotics is experiencing greater levels of engagement over this summer than in past years, and hopes that the excitement will carry into next year. By continuing to meet every week and providing learning opportunities like resume workshops to their members, Barack says that the team is thinking forward and ready to make a big impact once facilities reopen.

Written by Georgia Drost, CAR Writing Intern