Venezuelan racing connection

Jul 31, 2008

Kettering's Formula SAE Team offered international assistance to Central University of Venezuela's Formula SAE Team prior to the May 14-18 SAE race competition at Michigan International Speedway.

The request was simple: could Kettering’s Formula SAE (FSAE) Team host the FSAE team from Central University of Venezuela ( as it prepared for a competition at the Michigan International Speedway?

For Dr. Craig Hoff, Kettering’s FSAE adviser, and Kettering team members, there was no debate. With the 2008 Indy 500 field comprised of 20 international and 13 U.S. drivers, offering assistance to racing colleagues thousands of miles away is just one way to help Kettering make an international connection in the world of auto racing, at least on the collegiate level.

The FSAE Team from Venezuela was planning on racing in a Formula SAE competition in Michigan and needed to make sure the car was ready following a long journey from their home country, but to do this required a site near the race. Fortunately, Erick Scarpone, a graduate student in Kettering’s Industrial Manufacturing Engineering program and former FSAE team member for the Venezuela team, helped “grease the gears.”

“The team had to transport their car from Venezuela to Michigan, so there were some concerns that things might get jostled during the move,” he said.

So Scarpone, who earned his bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering at Central, approached Dr. Hoff to see if the FSAE Venezuela team could use Kettering’s SAE garage and resources. Scarpone also worked with Kettering’s team until an issue arose with the team’s engine, which prevented them from participating in competitions.

Kettering’s FSAE team helped pick up the vehicle from Detroit Metro Airport and transport it to the University’s SAE garage on the first floor of the C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center. The garage is outfitted with some of the latest tools and technology used by professional racing teams today and serves as home to the Formula SAE Team, Mini Baja Team and Clean Snowmobile Team.

The Kettering team also opened their tool boxes to the Venezuelan students and encouraged them to do and use whatever was needed to insure that the car was fully ready for the race.

“Dr. Hoff, the team and University really gave us a lot of help,” Scarpone said. “It was the first time Kettering has helped an international team and based on how well things went this year, Dr. Hoff said they would be happy to help again next year if it’s needed,” he added.

For Hoff, offering assistance to an international institution was an easy decision.

“Erick had been involved with Kettering’s FSAE team since arriving on campus. When he brought up this opportunity, the team was excited to help. We made room in the SAE garage and helped them out where we could,” he said.

The team, comprised of 12 students and two faculty advisers, finally went to the competition and finished 88th out of 120 teams. According to Scarpone, they would have finished much higher but ran into a front suspension issue that presented a difficult challenge. Still, the team, as well as Scarpone, is happy to have made an international connection with Kettering through the University’s willingness to offer assistance prior to the race.

Scarpone said he isn’t surprised at the openness of the institution, team and Dr. Hoff. “I can’t say enough about all of the help we received from Kettering,” he said. As he closes in on finishing his master’s degree under the insightful advisement of Dr. Pete Gheresus, professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, he believes he made the absolute correct choice when determining which graduate program in the States best fit his goals.

“During the 2006 Formula competition here in Michigan, I had planned to visit several graduate schools and decide which I would apply to,” he said. “Kettering was the best choice because of the hands-on nature of the program. As a result of my experience, I’ve told many friends back in Venezuela about the school and a number of them are now strongly considering applying to graduate school at Kettering,” he added.

His master’s program focused on Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma quality improvements. With his graduation in June quickly approaching, he’s also made considerable efforts to secure a position in the U.S. and recently took an offer from Caterpillar in Decatur, Ill. Originally from Caracas, which is the capital of Venezuela, Scarpone is excited to be starting his engineering career at such a reputable company, even though he will miss his parents and two brothers.

But, as he said with a smile, “at least they have another place to come for vacation.”

For more information about Central University of Venezuela, visit and for information about the school’s Formula SAE Team, visit For more information about Kettering’s SAE race teams, contact Dr. Craig Hoff, associate professor of ME and adviser for Formula SAE, at

Written by Gary Erwin