Clemson Motorsports Program
Ohlins wanted me to write an article about their new 7-post
shaker facility for Racecar Engineering magazine. Since I was
going to be in the Carolinas anyway I called around to see who
else I could visit. One of those calls was to Ken Williams at
Clemson University near Greenville So. Carolina. Ken said he'd
show me around so I scheduled the visit.
I spent a whole day at Clemson and met a lot of people: faculty,
staff, and people. I was impressed by their courtesy, enthusiasm,
On that same trip I visited Performance Friction Corporation,
manufacturer of brake pads and discs. They have hired several
Mechanical Engineering grads from Clemson and are pleased with
People email me asking about Motorsports Engineering programs
and this one is the best I know of. For more information visit
this website: http://www.ces.clemson.edu/me/motorsports/
or call 864-656-3470.
Here's my report:
The Motorsports Engineering Program at Clemson University
Clemson University, recently named by TIME magazine as the
number one public university in the U.S., has earned the respect
of the Motorsports industry by providing capable, technically
grounded graduates, and cost effective research programs. More
than a century ago the founder, Thomas Clemson, wanted to create
a "high seminary of learning to benefit the agricultural
and mechanical arts." Today Clemson University has about
16,000 graduate and undergraduate students and almost a quarter
of those study in the College of Engineering and Science.
Clemson is located near Greenville, So. Carolina, a short distance
from Charlotte, No. Carolina, the center of the NASCAR racing
industry. Even closer is the Road Atlanta complex, home to the
American Le Mans Series and the growing Panoz group of automotive
and Motorsports companies.
Several dozen graduates of the Clemson Motorsports Program
now work with race teams, suppliers of racing products, automotive
manufacturers, or aerospace companies. Motorsports Program students
and faculty work with teams in several race series (including
NASCAR, Sports Cars, and the National Hot Rod Association) on
a number of projects involving structural analysis, vehicle dynamics,
instrumentation, and aerodynamics.
Starting with Clemson's strong mechanical engineering curriculum
the Motorsports Program offers specialized classes in vehicle
dynamics, computational fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, structural
analysis, and signal processing. Sports marketing, management,
and communications electives are also available in other colleges.
More than 40 students are currently active in the program which
accepts students seeking Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees
in mechanical engineering with a Motorsports emphasis.
Mechanical Engineering Department faculty are closely involved
in the Motorsports Program. Dr. Richard Figliola is the head
of the M.E. department and is involved in Motorsports aerodynamics.
Dr. Lonny Thompson conducts research in Motorsports applications
for finite element analysis (FEA). Dr. Harry Law is involved
with vehicle dynamics, kinematics, and aerodynamics.
Several specific areas of expertise exist at Clemson that
add strength of the Motorsports Program: textiles, fluid dynamics,
advanced manufacturing, and rapid prototyping.
The use of composite materials continues to grow in all industries
including Motorsports. Clemson University's traditional involvement
with the textiles industry combined with a strong materials engineering
program uniquely positions the school to be a force in composites
research and development.
The acquisition of a new Sun supercomputer allows participants
in the Motorsports Program access to the most advanced computational
fluid dynamics (CFD) tools available. Students, Motorsports suppliers,
and race teams are able to make use of Clemson's Virtual Wind
Tunnel to prequalify hardware configurations before committing
to expensive scale models. Dr. James Leylek heads the CFD programs.
Clemson is one of a group of universities involved in the
Development Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Henry Watson heads
this program. Clemson has also formed a partnership with industrial
leaders to establish the Laboratory to Advance Industrial Prototyping
(LAIP). The LAIP, with Elaine Hunt as director, works with industry
in the use of CAD solid modeling and rapid prototyping. These
technologies are evolving from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing
with developing applications that will be useful to the Motorsports
The Brooks Institute
The Brooks Institute for Sports Science, headed by Director
Don Rice, is an important part of the Clemson Motorsports Program.
"Our goal is to service the racing industry from drag racing
to Formula 1," said Rice. "We're developing a sole-source
portal for research projects that will develop technology, provide
engineering expertise to the race teams and suppliers, and create
educational opportunities for students. These projects will provide
program direction and determine the areas of focus for the Clemson
Motorsports Engineering Program.
This photo shows Clemson President Jim Barker talking to NASCAR
team owner Jack Roush (in the hat). That's Don Rice in the background
between Barker and Roush.
"With our expertise in vehicle dynamics, kinematics,
structural analysis, computational fluid dynamics, rapid manufacturing,
and composites we can provide serious deliverables for industry
partners. Clemson has developed applied technologies that give
us the capability to deliver highly technical hardware and software
solutions in a short timeframe. We can plan and execute research
and development programs that racing businesses don't have time
for. Clemson is far ahead of any other educational institution
in Motorsports research and we have some ambitious plans for
One of Roush's cars was painted with the colors of Clemson's
Tigers football team. The car is on a lift in a shop area that's
part of the Motorsports Program facility.
Ken Williams using a Rom-Tek tool to generate a 3-D map of
a racecar. Rom-Tek is one of the companies involved with Clemson's
Motorsports Program developing tools and research projects for
race teams. The laser transmitter on the red stand at the left
is one of two units generating intersecting fields. The wand
Ken is holding interacts with the laser transmitters to precisely
locate the point at the wand's tip.
In this photo you can see both transmitters.