Students exhibit vehicles, talent at Chicago Auto Show

UIC Motorsports

Taha Tayebali works on a Baja car frame. Photos: Timothy Nguyen/UIC News

What do UIC Motorsports, Ferrari, Lamborghini and BMW all have in common?

Each will have vehicles on display at the 106th annual Chicago Auto Show, Saturday through Feb. 17 at McCormick Place.

Thirty to 40 students will represent UIC Motorsports Society of Automotive Engineers, the largest engineering society at UIC — showing their cars alongside about 1,000 vehicles at the nation’s largest and longest-running auto show.

“It’s just an awesome feeling,” said Chris Graff, senior in mechanical engineering and president of UIC Motorsports.

It’s the organization’s second time at the auto show, and “the excitement is definitely still there,” said Adam Miszta, former president of UIC Motorsports and formula captain.

Members of the group will alternate shifts next to their Formula F13 car and Baja 2011 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day of the show to answer questions.

The most common questions last year: “‘How fast does the formula car go?’ and ‘How high can the Baja car jump?’” Graff said.

The group’s formula car is similar in appearance to Formula 1 Indy racecars. The Baja car, which looks more like a dune buggy, is designed for dirt tracks and jumps, with an emphasis on shocks and suspension.

“It’s just a different crowd than what we’re experienced with,” said Miszta, a senior in mechanical engineering, of the auto show.


Edward Camic and Taha Tayebali.

To distinguish themselves from other universities at the show last year, UIC Motorsports showed video of its cars at competitions, displayed a 6-foot Motorsports banner, handed out nearly 10,000 bookmarks and let visitors sit in the Baja car.

“What was really cool about the auto show was that we met an alumni from the 1970s,” Miszta said.

While UIC Motorsports may have a 40-year-old history and headquarters in an automotive shop, Graff and Miszta said the group is more than gear heads working on fast cars.

“You have different tiers of people in the shop and in the lab that are on the team,” Graff said. “Some want to get their hands dirty, others to design and play mad scientist, and many want to take on a managerial position — there are all sorts of jobs.

“I always thought of it as a business — it’s an engineering firm,” he added. “There are jobs for everybody to do; that’s what’s great about it.”

UIC Motorsports is prepping four automotive frames for the annual Society of Automotive Engineers competitions.

This year, the UIC group will compete against student automotive engineers from around the world in two events: May 14-17 in Brooklyn, Mich., at Formula SAE, and June 4-7 in Peoria at Baja SAE.

The teamwork of building and rebuilding cars is a highlight for many members of UIC’s Society of Automotive Engineers.


Chris Graff, UIC Motorsport president.

“What I’m going to take from college is definitely UIC Motorsports,” Miszta said.

“When I’m older I’ll be able to look back and say, ‘my group of friends and I, we built a race car.’ It doesn’t get any better than that.”

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