Ribenboim Driving Formula SAE Forward

March 15, 2018

A design competition within the Society of Automotive Engineers, the Speed Formula SAE team is a student driven initiative to build a formula one race car. Over the years, the organization has had varying degrees of success in organizing, suffering substantial downtime between their last competition in 2009 and restarting for the 2015 season. Since rebuilding, the team has continued to evolve, struggling to meet the standards for competition. That looks to change under the leadership of mechanical engineering junior co-captain Paulo Ribenboim, who is driven to get the team back on track to crossing the finish line with their competition entry June 20th-23rd.

To Ribenboim, continuity for the team is integral to their success, both for this year and looking toward the future. Taking note after last year’s competition saw the majority of the team leave due to graduation and attrition, Ribenboim has rebuilt their roster by attending Engineering 111 courses to recruit students in the broadest capacity. Now, along with co-captain Evan Dowell, the Formula SAE team has a roster of 55 members, largely populated with Freshman, all of which are subdivided into smaller modules to solve unique problems.

Off to the races

Their concept is simple, to craft a team that can operate independently, but who share ideas, with Ribenboim and Dowell serving as co-captains who can tag team based on their availability. They allowed such a large roster to remain respectful and sensitive to the time demands part and parcel to being a freshman in Speed. It’s imperative to Ribenboim that everyone not only feels included to reflect their interest, but that their ideas are valued whether they are new to the organization or not.

“Our goal is to let anybody come in and participate. We’ve capped off our team limit. We’re trying to push through the rest of our season without making any procedural changes,” he said. Ribenboim adds of his own engagement, “I think it’s reasonable that I contribute more. It’s all about working as a team.”

Start Your Engines

Ribenboim found inspiration in his family, specifically his sister Katie, herself a Speed School alum with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Through her example, Ribenboim understood the viability of engineering as a practical pursuit that not only engaged his interest in math, but allowed for his creative growth. During his time at UofL, Ribenboim has co-oped at GE Aviation, and hopes to either return there or to work at Raytheon Missile Systems post-graduation. In either case, he is motivated to pursue aerospace engineering.

When it came time to join an student organization, Ribenboim initially looked into the River City Rocketry team, an organization that he remains in close contact with. With the RCR filling up, and seeing an opportunity to put his ideas into immediate practice, he joined the Formula One team. His earliest projects involved assembling the vehicle, which allowed him to see up close the difference between ideas in theory and practice.

“In the design world, if something doesn’t work, you can work around it, but in the real world, you have a finite amount of stock, money, and you have to think quickly to solve those problems," he said. "What I’ve realized is that the teams are different, the ideas are different, but there are engineering aspects that apply to both of them.”

Where the rubber hits the road

This year, the Formula SAE event is held in Lincoln Nebraska, and for Ribenboim, it’s where the rubber meets the road. He believe that their continued success hinges on their diligence and passion in seeing this year though.

“This is sort of do or die for our team this year," said Ribenboim. "For the past two years, we have not successfully competed. We have to be funded somehow. We have corporate sponsors. If this year is a success, I think this will kickstart our team.”