AI in FSAE

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June 17th may not seem very far away, but to the Aztec Electric Racing team it is fast approaching. That is the first date of the annual Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) California competition held for university students to create and develop their own formula style vehicles. SAE International describes it as “an engineering education competition” where competing students put their designs through a number of events to test their engineering skills. This opportunity to demonstrate more than what can be explored inside the classroom is what fuels the members of AER. The focus of the organization is to showcase the students’ best performance as engineers which requires significant dedication and passion.

New students have joined in Spring Semester of 2020, creating a buzz within the team: Chris Hernandez, Max Mendez, Hector Nevarez, Ezra Simpson, and Matt Turi. One of the newest members, Hector Nevarez, even introduced a new goal for AER which is to make the car autonomous through A.I. Nevarez says that when he first mentioned the idea, “everyone got excited,” and soon created an entire plan outlining the timeline and budget for his new project. Nevarez, with Matt Turi, will be the team working on making the car autonomous, with the goal of entering it into the Formula Student Driverless (FSD) competition category. Nevarez himself is currently a sophomore double-majoring in computer science and statistics. He is first-generation Mexican American and the first of his family to attend college. Nevarez says that he not only is interested in A.I. but has an understanding of it which he wishes to develop into something that can help people. The future of A.I. in general is very cloudy with seemingly endless and unforeseeable possibilities. Many view it as a threat because of how easily technology can replace human labor. Even Nevarez admits that “we’re putting people out of jobs,” and that even his own career may not be safe. However, the exciting element of the FSAE competition is the opportunity to put everything and anything to the test for these bright engineers. In the spirit of that, Nevarez and Turi will split the work of making the car autonomous. They plan on having it completed by May 2021.

The goals of the AER team are nothing less than motivated and far-reaching. Nevarez, when asked why he joined, says that he wants to get good experience and “work on things that are interesting.” AER provides that and is giving its members the kind of experience and fulfilment that they can only get by doing. This is in accordance with SAE International which strives to promote an environment most similar to what engineers will be working in once they are part of an actual engineering firm. In addition to this, the team welcomes members from all different perspectives and academic studies. What matters most, according to President Juan Rojas is, “if you take pride in the quality of your work, then you have a place at AER.”Meanwhile, the countdown to the June 17th continues and so does the AER team. When engineers walk into the workshop, it is clear how motivated they are not only to win, but to achieve excellence. They follow a motto which guides their work and is exemplified by their desire for more; These students prove that passion never fails.

– Written by Maria Watson

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