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uploaded 11/4/2000

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, and professionalism.

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 them.

People email me asking about Motorsports Engineering programs and this one is the best I know of. For more information visit this website: 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.

Synergistic Programs

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 industry.

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.

Barker and Roush

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 expansion."

Tiger car

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 and Rom-Tek probe

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.

Ken Williams with transmitters

In this photo you can see both transmitters.



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