Meet Future Engineer Michael Nunnelly

By Dora Smith

Actually make that CURRENT engineer. Michael just graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering, with minors in Automotive Engineering and Manufacturing and Business. If you’re at Solid Edge University, you can meet him IRL.

Michael is team captain of Auburn University’s Formula SAE (FSAE) team. Here’s a great video of the team’s 2012 car:

Michael has a passion for anything with wheels, including classic cars, custom motorcycles and bamboo bicycles. He’s probably the only student at Auburn with a bamboo bike. He saw one online and then noticed a big patch of bamboo on campus and the rest is history. His affinity for autos drove him to Auburn.

At Solid Edge University, Michael and his FSAE teammates will present on the competition, the car and the overall experience. Their session is titled: “Multi-Part Assembly and Troubleshooting with Synchronous & Traditional Models.” Auburn uses Solid Edge in their mechanical engineering curricula and for designing FSAE and Baja cars.  They’ll share a step-by-step guide to assembling an automotive sub-system using Solid Edge’s assembly relationships. 

If you’re not familiar with FSAE, check out Auburn’s FSAE website. The more than 30-year-old design competition program has been in practice at universities for more than 30 years.  In a nutshell challenges students to design, build and test a Formula-style race car based on rules that test onsite operations and problem solving skills. Here’s my Q&A with Michael:

Q: How fast does the car go?

A: “Our car goes 110-120 miles per hour but we focus more on acceleration. This year’s car can go 0-60 in 3.1 seconds.”

Q: So where do you test drive the car?
A: “We’re pretty fortunate that the regional airport is a sponsor. Not many teams have a great stretch of asphalt like that to test their cars.”

Q: What challenges did you face during the design/build?
A: “We chose to go carbon fiber this year. A steel chassis is a lot heavier and harder to package. So instead of building the frame out of steel tubing, we used all molded carbon fiber. Since it was the first time we used carbon fiber, we had some challenges with determining the thickness to use in the model. It was a good challenge and the next step in developing ourselves as engineers.”

Q: What features of Solid Edge did you use to develop your project?
“We used both traditional and synchronous technology in the modeling. We sketch the base so we can easily parameterize. We use surfacing for body shapes. We do interpart modeling to create parts in the assembly. Solid Edge’s assembly relationships allow us to see what fits and what doesn’t.”

Q: What lessons did you learn in the process?
A: “The lessons I’ll take away as a graduate is understanding the scope of a project upfront and project mgmt. If you spend all your time designing, you have less time to build. You have to design a product to be manufactured in time.”

Q: Last but not least, what would you say about engineering to those considering it as a career?
A: “There are lots of opportunities. Some may think engineering is boring, that it’s not creative. It’s totally the opposite. As engineers we can design anything we want to meet end users requirements. There is no end to the creativity.”

Here’s a brief video Michael in an interview with teammate Andrew Rains:

Michael says he wants his first job to be something just like a FSAE project with a good mix of design and build. I’ll share more from the Auburn FSAE team live from Solid Edge University.

–        Dora

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at