Engineering students race to learn

mechanical engineering students building a prototype vehicle

Students have challenging, hands-on educational experiences at NDSU, whether they are in the classroom or taking part in a student organization.

One example is Bison Motorsports, the NDSU collegiate chapter of SAE International, often known as the Society of Automotive Engineers. Chapter members build vehicles and participate in a variety of competitive teams, such as the Clean Snowmobile Challenge, Mini Baja vehicle, Formula SAE race car or the Formula Hybrid/Electric car.

“Our group is an opportunity for engineering and business students to apply what they learn in class to real, hands-on, working situations,” explained Michael Restad, Bison Motorsports president and a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. “The teams develop everything in their vehicle from the ground up. They do all the analysis, manufacturing, fabricating, marketing for sponsorships and outreach to people in industry who can help them. Everything has real-world applications.”

The vehicles are treated as senior design projects, with four-to-five seniors making up the leadership of the teams. Underclassmen are added so squads have the personnel needed to get the vehicles completed in time for national competitions in March, April or May.

The work is time consuming and, at times, difficult. But, important lessons are learned, and it’s also a great way to relax.

“You can take a break from classes and blow off a little steam – you can weld some metal, get your hands dirty, run an engine on the dynamometer or do some 3-D CAD modeling. It really is a lot of fun,” said Restad, who also is captain of the Clean Snowmobile team.

The skills of teamwork, leadership, problem solving, communication and networking come together as the students prepare their vehicles for the competitions against institutions from across the country.

The experience gives them a leg up when they enter the job market. “Companies like Polaris, TEAM Industries or Textron are all looking for people with powersports or engine backgrounds. If you have that, you move to the top of the list,” said Restad.

Bison Motorsports is one of more than 300 student organizations at NDSU, many of which help shape students to succeed in career and life.

mechanical engineering building a vehicle