University City

New building will help expand UNCC motorsports program

UNC Charlotte's motorsports program is one of the world's top authorities in emerging automotive and motorsports technology.

The program, an add-on to a mechanical engineering degree, gives undergraduate students hands-on experience that leads to careers in all areas of motorsports.

This fall, a new 16,500-square-foot motorsports building will open. Program officials say it will attract new students from around the country and allow the successful program to become even more so.

The building will house the program's water tunnel and a new miniature wind tunnel; research facilities; a state-of-the-art engine dynamometer; and graduate student offices.

It will also allow graduate students the chance to participate in the program.

"That will bring our program to new heights," said Ahmed Soliman, director of the motorsports and automotive research center. "Along with IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) and a school in England, our program is among the top in the world, and this only strengthens it."

The $4.5 million facility will be the center of research activities, focusing primarily on student projects and race teams, and it will house faculty offices.

Located in the heart of NASCAR country, the motorsports and automotive research center is within five miles of Charlotte Motor Speedway and within 50 miles of about 90 percent of NASCAR Sprint Cup teams.

"We have 40 percent of our students coming from out of state," Soliman said. "The new building will get the word out to more people and opens the door for more students to come through our program."

Nearly 10 percent of all NASCAR engineers are graduates of the UNC Charlotte motorsports program. It offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering.

The program has 100 students, but with graduate students now eligible, that number is likely to rise.

To enter the program, UNC Charlotte students can apply for a concentration in motorsports engineering after their freshman year. After the initial acceptance into the program, students can take classes to train them for various aspects of the profession.

Some of the classes offered within the motorsports program include vehicle aerodynamics, motorsports instrumentation and motorsports engineering.

Students can focus on any number of motorsports related industries, including automotive power plants, road dynamics, discrete mechanical vibration systems, intermediate dynamics or finite element modeling, or they can create a custom approach.

"It is not just for race cars," Soliman said. "Motorsports encompasses anything that goes fast: motorcycles, boats, cars, etc. Our students end up working for major automotive companies, NASCAR, in the United States and abroad."

The motorsports program is a serious commitment and requires dedication.

Along with classwork and regular university requirements, students must participate on a motorsports team for three years. In addition, students must spend 40 hours in the motorsports lab each month and attend at least 75 percent of all on-campus seminars offered.

The new building is set to be completed in October, and Soliman hopes to move in by the end of 2011.

Those interested in learning more can visit the UNCC motorsports website at motorsports.uncc.edu/.

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