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UPS Gives German Engineering Students a Lift to the Finish Line

Engineering, innovation, and automobiles are German specialties, and students from the University of Applied Sciences at Zwickau in southeast Germany bring all three together for the Formula Student international auto design competition. The challenge: to create a single-seat, formula-style weekend racer for an amateur driver – following specific technical specifications, emissions standards and safety features – as well as producing a bottom-to-top plan to bring it to market.

Since 2006, students from UAS Zwickau have put their design skills to the test, continuing the region’s tradition of automotive excellence – as Zwickau is known for the legendary and iconic speedster of the 1930s, the “Silver Arrow.”

One of the latest iterations in their line of design is the FP410, a stout speed machine lovingly nicknamed “Olaf.” The precisely tuned orchestra of carbon-fiber, plastics and aluminum is propelled by a Honda CBR 600 engine capable of accelerating the vehicle from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. Through 2010, Olaf participated in numerous European competitions – evaluated not only on speed, acceleration, and handling – but also on endurance, fuel consumption, cost, design and business planning. For their first overseas competition in May 2011, the team was to travel to the Michigan International Speedway in Jackson, Michigan.

But the team budget was limited, and the transport budget was essentially exhausted prior to the Michigan trip. The students found themselves in a bind, bereft of funds and needing a reliable and economical way to get their racer from Germany to the United States.

For help, the students turned to the German television show “Mach dich ran” (“Get started”) which took on the challenge of solving the team’s transportation troubles within 24 hours – with the cameras rolling. With speed a priority and the team’s international competition on the line, the hosts approached UPS, a company that is no stranger to helping organizations large and small overcome their logistics challenges. The company was more than happy to step in as a logistics partner and provide UPS Air Freight services to help Olaf make the nearly 7,000 kilometer journey across the sea. The announcement was made in the nick of time to a lecture hall of 300 overjoyed students.

Only about a week later, the three-meter long racer was packed into a 290 by 160 by 120 cm shipping crate and was picked up on the morning of April 28, 2011 in Zwickau. From there, it traveled to UPS’s Cologne air hub and on the same night was placed on the 9:00 pm (NA1) flight to Worldport, UPS’s all-points international air hub in Louisville, Kentucky, before finally being transported to the Michigan speedway. The journey went smoothly, with Olaf ready for three days of competition against a spate of 121 teams from all over the world.

On the first of three days of competition – the “static” portion – the students from Zwickau presented their business case to a jury and had their design and cost structure carefully scrutinized by the judges, all of which count for about a third of the 1,000 possible points in the competition. The following two days were the “dynamic” portion of the competition: acceleration, skid-pad (which measures a car’s cornering ability), the autocross (measuring maneuverability and handling) and finally endurance – a full-on driving challenge across a 1.1 mile course. On the team’s blog, the students described the dynamic competitions as more of a “roller coaster ride” than a straight race, but despite the ups and down, the hard work and innovation of the team paid off, as they came in 7th out of the 121 teams.

The 13 members of the team were welcomed home to Germany a few days later, trophy in hand, with Olaf again travelling via UPS. The results of the competition put them 12th place in the overall world rankings as they look forward to their next challenge: “We’re very pleased with the result and proud of everybody who took part,” said Torsten Rilka, one of the UAS Zwickau team members who made the journey. “And we’d like to thank UPS for their support in taking Olaf overseas and making the trip to Michigan possible.”

Category: Global Impact, Logistics
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