Formula SAE Sponsorship Supports Students Who Are Driven to Succeed
Our biggest win is when we’re able to hire someone like Johnathan Garcia, a recent St. Cloud State University (SCSU) graduate who is now an automation engineer at UMC. We first met Garcia as a freshman four years ago through Formula SAE, when we were the first sponsor of the Husky Formula Racing Team. We support apprenticeships, internships, and building programs that give students the chance to explore the world of manufacturing before they graduate.
If You Can’t Find It, Build It
When Garcia started at SCSU, he knew he wanted to be part of a Formula SAE team. He’d heard from other mechanical engineering majors that the student design competition, organized by SAE International, was one of the best ways to get hands-on experience and exposure to manufacturing companies while in school. When Garcia discovered SCSU didn’t have a team, he decided to start one.
After talking to the department chair, Garcia rounded up 30 students—studying everything from engineering to political science—to help develop a formula–style race car that would meet the rigorous requirements of the SAE competitions by the end of the academic year. But first, the team would need to raise money. It would take approximately $15,000 in materials to build the car, and entry costs for the competitions average $2,300 each.
Finding That First Partner
When the team approached UMC for sponsorship, Garcia was impressed by the questions the company asked.
“They wanted to know about all of the intangible aspects of what we were working on and our long-term plans,” says Garcia. “UMC asked about how we were designing the program to maximize the positive impact on SCSU.”
It’s something that Garcia has kept in mind as he’s built and managed the team over the last four years.
“As a team, we’re focused on building a program that will set students apart from everybody else,” says Garcia. “We want to have team members doing things that are going to help them succeed in the real world.”
Growing Through Challenges
The program is designed to challenge students. At the SAE competitions, teams from around the world are judged on how well their cars have been designed and manufactured based on a real business-case scenario.
“This year’s scenario was tailored to a recession,” says Garcia. “We had to show how we were going to react—how many cars we would produce, and how we would change our marketing strategy based on the economic conditions.”
The competitions also feature dynamic events where students drive the cars to demonstrate capabilities like speed, acceleration, and endurance.
“Every year, we learn what we could have done better. We take what we learned and put it into our next design,” says Garcia. “I’ve learned a lot about project management, identifying a big project, and putting the appropriate scope to it.”
The Biggest Wins are Off the Track
In addition to getting in front of local sponsors, students who participate in Formula SAE also gain exposure to recruiters from leading companies around the world.
“SpaceX approached one of our students after a competition,” Garcia says. “He was offered a job and moved out to Seattle after graduation to start working for them.”
And it’s not just companies in the mobility industry that are interested in students who’ve competed in Formula SAE. Students from the Husky Formula Racing Team have gone on to work at companies such as Ecolab and GRACO, as mechanical and automation engineers.
Ready for What’s Next
After graduation, students who’ve had the Formula SAE experience feel more prepared to manage major projects and balance multiple priorities.
“I keep in touch with students who’ve been a part of the team,” says Garcia. “A lot of them say that it would be difficult to do what they’re doing now without the level of experience they got with Formula SAE.”
As for Garcia, he’s excited about what the future holds for him at UMC.
“I was impressed by how clean and professional the shop was when I toured back in 2016,” he says. “It’s been a goal of mine to work there ever since.”
We know that when we help support programs like Formula SAE, The CEO Program, and FIRST Robotics, that means more students can experience STEM, entrepreneurship, and manufacturing in a meaningful way.
By investing in the future, we’re creating a steady pipeline of manufacturing talent within our community. That’s a finish we can all cheer.