UCLA student Owen Hemminger works on UCLA Formula SAE team’s car on the Westwood campus workshop. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA’s Formula SAE Team was quoted extensively in the LA Times article “Where do SpaceX and other aerospace companies find engineers? On the race track.” Please click the prior link to read the full article. Quotations related to UCLA are excerpted below.


During the endurance test, two people drive the car around a course marked by traffic cones for a little more than 13 miles, which can take about half an hour and involves a driver switch. Many teams, such as UCLA’s, have a hard time finding a large, open space for testing, meaning the endurance test could be one of the few times the car runs that long without breaks.

Scaled Composites, which is now part of Northrop Grumman Corp., has mentored a handful of Southern California teams, including UCLA’s, and recruited students in their shops for full-time jobs or internships. Several of the company’s engineers have also volunteered to offer feedback ahead of the competitions.

Each Saturday for the last few months, about 30 members of the UCLA Formula SAE team pumped up the music in their ground-floor shop on campus and worked almost all day on their car. That’s in addition to the hours they spend there in between classes.

The UCLA team has already made several changes to avoid challenges it ran into last year, when it finished 59th out of 80 teams. A new, tunable muffler has been added that should help the team pass a sound requirement during the technical inspection. Last year, UCLA just barely passed that test by using a special exhaust plug and two mufflers packed with steel wool to deaden the sound.

Students on the team get greater hands-on engineering experience than they might in academic classes, said Owen Hemminger, 20, a mechanical engineering student and financial director of UCLA’s team.

Everyone learns how to use engineering software and do machining in school, “but not to the depth we use it,” he said.

Dan Rivin, 22, said his experience making steering wheels and driver’s seats for UCLA’s cars prepared him for an internship at Northrop Grumman, where he worked extensively with composites.

Last fall, the materials engineering student, who graduated this spring, gave a Northrop recruiter a tour of UCLA’s Formula SAE shop. Later, the recruiter asked Rivin for a resume. After several interviews, he was offered a full-time job with the aerospace giant and will start at the end of this month.

He said his work with Formula SAE came up in a number of interviews. He’s convinced it got him onto recruiters’ radar screens.

“This is very unique in the way that you’re involved in the entire process,” he said. “No one’s holding your hand through the whole thing.”


 UCLA Samueli Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering