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How a group of Villanova students built a car from scratch

The car is currently on display at the Philadelphia Auto Show.

The students examine their handiwork in a Villanova parking lot.

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For Villanova University senior Albert Montemuro, this week’s Philadelphia Auto Show represents a dream come true.

Montemuro is the captain of the university’s NovaRacing team, made up of 20 students who have spent months designing and building a formula race car for the Society of Automotive Engineers’ annual competition in May. The car is on display at the Philadelphia Convention Center for the auto show, which runs through Sunday.

“I’ve dreamed of building a car my whole life,” says Montemuro, a mechanical engineering major from New Jersey. “I had changed the oil on my dad’s car a couple of times, but I’d never really worked on a car until I got to school.”

We asked Montemuro to break down how he and his team created their car from scratch.

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Learning from their mistakes:The NovaRacing team has been taking part in the competition since 2009. “We do all of the design work ourselves,” he explains. “So then we come back, the first thing we do is look at what we did wrong. We look at what other teams did right and then we start doing research.”

A virtual prototype:After reflecting on the last competition and process, the students begin planning next year’s car. “We use a computer-aided design program and we basically have the car designed on the computer before we start building,” Montemuro explains. “We do that over the whole summer. The team is pretty diverse location-wise [during the summer], so we have Skype meetings and work from home.” This year’s car features a carbon fiber body and is more lightweight than previous vehicles, according to Montemuro.

The students also balance designing the car with their internships and summer jobs. Montemuro for example, spent the summer interning at Lockheed Martin.

Raising the money:While Villanova provides about half of the $50,000 needed to build the car, “it’s up to us to come up with that the rest of that $50k,” Montemuro says. The funds come from a combination of grants, in-kind donations of materials and fundraising. The experience has been memorable and has given the team a leg up while they are planning their future careers.

“It’s hands-on work, and that’s something that employers look for,” he says.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 
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