Formula Slug: Race-Cars, Solar Panels, And The Key To Success

Monday, January 29, 2018
Mickey Heldman

Formula Slug is a student led organization run by knowledgeable and dedicated undergraduates practicing hands-on engineering with projects such as designing solar panels and building electric race-cars. Though Formula Slug is an engineering-based student organization, the members invite anyone, of any major, to join. Being involved in Formula Slug is a learning experience for everyone involved and though it is demanding, it applies engineering in a way that is practical, exploratory, and engaging for students.

At the core of Formula Slug is FSAE Electric, a weekend-long competition designed for university students to compete against one another with their hand-crafted electric race-car. Hosted by SAE, the Society of Automotive Engineers, (, this competition encompasses of the intricacies that are woven into creating this machinery: circuits, batteries, controls (steering, brakes, throttle), welding, measuring, calculating, etc.

Through the organization’s activities and the FSAE competition, Formula Slug facilitates the transition from school to industry for those looking to pursue an engineering career after graduating from UC Santa Cruz. Hands-on experience, such as the kind students get from Formula Slug, help students secure a job after graduation. Sam Ritzo, FSAE Project Manager, and Network and Digital Technology major, spoke on the topic, knowing previous members who have gone through the application process, and stated that “Engineering companies don’t care what your GPA is, they don’t even really care what your major is. FSAE taught me hands-on experience, and that’s what matters … they want to see that you can work on a team, they want to see that you can work with the same person for several years, maybe even someone you’d rather not work with, but have to in order to get the job done.”

Formula Slug believes the ability to communicate ideas is the key to success, and that even though one may be, “a brilliant engineer that’s a wiz at designing hardware-software …  if you can’t communicate what it’s actually doing and how it’s supposed to interface with the rest of what your team is working on, you’re basically useless at that point,” according to Kenneth Jones, President of Formula Slug and Electrical Engineering major.

Being able to communicate ideas clearly is necessary within Formula Slug. By participating in the organization, students learn to talk about their work and how it fits in with the whole, rather than focus on their particular piece of the work. When building anything -- a race-car in Formula Slug’s case -- everyone needs to be on the same page to make it work. Everyone needs to know what everyone else is working on and how it affects the race car so that they can effectively add their piece to the whole. This is why communication is so critical for Formula Slug: without communication there would be chaos, and with chaos, it would be impossible to build a race-car. 

Formula Slug wants its members to succeed and become the best engineers they can be. Sam Ritzo expresses that “If someone comes in and says ‘I know nothing, but I will make time to devote to this,’ we’ll take those people and say ‘Here, work on these things. Design and build something.’”