Columbia University Formula Racing Student Group Receives Robert D. Lilley Award for Socially Responsible Engineering

May 08, 2020

We are excited to announce that the Columbia University Formula Racing student group has received the Robert D. Lilley Award for Socially Responsible Engineering! The group is advised by Electrical Engineering Professor Matthias Preindl and Mechanical Engineering Professors Jeff Kysar and Josh Browne. Student leaders include President of the group Ara Lee-Yu Peterson from the IEOR Program, Bernard William Steyaert from the Electrical Engineering program and Albert Tai from the Mechanical Engineering program.

The Robert D. Lilley Award for Social Responsibility is selected each spring by the Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science on the recommendation of Student Engagement. The award is given to a group that is working on an engineering project that focuses on engineering projects in economically and/or socially disadvantaged regions of the US; campus education efforts that focus on the connection between engineering innovation and betterment of the human condition; and student research projects specifically directed toward topics that demonstrate an explicit connection to the need for socially-responsible engineering practices and solutions in the modern world.

"We are honored to receive the Robert D Lilley Award. Building an electric vehicle alongside a traditional combustion engine car has been no easy task, but it was a necessary first step to realizing our vision of an all-electric future for CUFR. Thank you to all our teammates and the school for their continued commitment to making sustainable Formula racing a reality," said Peterson.

Beginning in the summer of 2018, the club began designing its first fully Electric Vehicle (EV) after more than a decade of success in the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) category. Beginning with just two students, the project has amassed a group of nearly 50 motivated undergraduates and graduate students across all four of Columbia’s undergraduate schools. They have demonstrated a passion for collaboratively learning and developing socially-responsible transportation solutions for the modern world. CUFR’s design of an efficient battery powered electric vehicle that ensures the safety of both the driver and the environment demonstrates their commitment to minimizing CO2 emissions while protecting human needs of transportation in this ever-expanding world, embodying the SEAS vision of “Engineering for Humanity”.

“This year the team was tasked with building two cars for the first time. There were many engineering challenges associated with building an electric car for the first time, but perhaps more difficult was coordinating tasks between so many mechanical and electrical engineers. We focused on specializing engineers to certain systems, developing a network of engineering depth which will pay dividends in the years to come. I’m so proud of the work of all of our engineers this year” said Steyaert.

While there have been challenges over the past couple of months due to COVID-19, the student group is still optimistic about next steps. "Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world will have to wait a bit longer to see Formula's two 2019-2020 cars (Electric and Internal Combustion) in their full glory. However, we're thrilled to embody the University's dedication to sustainable energy by representing Columbia University in the City of New York at the FSAE North Electric Competition for the very first time in 2021... and we hope that the Columbia community will be ready to have its blue and white socks rocked off," Tai said.