MIT Motorsports traditions, from group stretches to “Hitting Roman,” continue to thrive.

Despite a seven-year age difference between siblings Kevin Chan ’17 and rising senior Monica Chan, Monica emphasizes, “we’re eight grades apart, so, like, eight life-years apart.”

Notwithstanding this significant age gap — Kevin headed off to college when Monica was in fifth grade — the siblings have shared strikingly similar experiences and interests. Both have taken leadership roles on the MIT Motorsports team, albeit eight years apart. Kevin served as the electrical systems lead from 2015 to 2017, while Monica is currently the software lead.

Established in 2001 by Rich James ’04, SM ’06, and Nick Gidwani ’04, and backed by the Edgerton Center, MIT Motorsports is responsible for the development and construction of a high-caliber Formula SAE car for participation in annual competitions. Over the last 23 years, MIT Motorsports has manufactured 19 cars, secured 10 trophies, and has had numerous team members. The alumni are passionate supporters who established an endowed fund for their 20th anniversary to ensure longevity. In 2017, Kevin’s team clinched Second Place Overall at the Formula SAE Electric contest in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kevin represented one of two electrical engineering students on the team, while Monica now supervises a subteam comprising 10 students. This expansion has facilitated the creation of a customized telemetry system. “Through radio transmission, we can monitor real-time data from the car, complete with a customized dashboard designed with a bespoke PCB that transmits all data,” Monica details.

Reflecting on the advancements, Kevin reminisces, “It’s amusing to hear Monica discuss this because during my time on the team, our UI [user interface] for the driver was quite basic. It merely showcased the max cell temperature and minimum cell voltage on a single-line display. We even had a sticky note on the dashboard reminding us not to exceed a certain temperature or voltage.”

While at MIT, Kevin kept his sister updated weekly on the activities of the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE). “Kevin offered me valuable advice when I was a high school junior, emphasizing that you’re never too young to achieve greatness,” Monica recalls. “He made it clear that ‘you’re not going to be much smarter two years from now than you are now.’ This counsel propelled me through high school, motivating me to tackle challenging projects with the understanding that it’s more about personal qualities driving you towards difficult tasks. Knowledge can be acquired, but the determination is the real challenge.”

Team customs are deeply ingrained in their culture. Members engage in a team stretch at the conclusion of each meeting, adhering to a long-standing practice. “Everyone extends their arms out while standing and then performs a squat, concluding with a round of applause. This routine dates back to before my time on the team. The story goes that this stretch originated from the stretching regimen performed by Japanese autoworkers at the start of their workday to loosen their jumpsuits and improve knee flexibility in the factory. It’s intriguing to observe how this ritual has persisted for almost two decades within the team,” Kevin shares.

“Hitting Roman,” signifying the initial run of the car, is a significant milestone. “Our team believed that mentioning the car’s first run was jinxed,” Kevin recounts. “We wanted an alternative to the term ‘running car’ as we feared that verbalizing it may thwart the car from actually operating. Consequently, we adopted the term ‘Roman Chariot’ as a replacement.” The moniker stuck, and Monica’s team accomplished this milestone in April.

For Kevin, the essence of Motorsports remains vibrant as he resides with four Motorsports alumni and collaborates with three others at Tesla, where he functions as a staff energy systems design/architecture engineer.

“FSAE and the Edgerton Center played a pivotal role in igniting my career and internships. The design process at these places offers a unique blend of breadth and depth,” Kevin affirms.

According to Monica, “Involvement in the race car project provides valuable insights where classroom lessons are applied to a tangible endeavor. Sometimes, I grasp concepts through the race car project before encountering them in lectures. This hands-on experience enhances my understanding of how things function and contributes to my learning.”

The team recently participated in the Formula Hybrid competition in Loudon, New Hampshire, securing top honors in design, acing scrutineering [mandatory technical, safety, and administrative checks], excelling in acceleration, achieving a commendable ranking in the racing challenge, exhibiting strong project management skills, and placing fifth overall. Describing their accomplishment, Edgerton Center Technical Instructor Pat McAtamney notes, “Completing a brakes test successfully on the first attempt is a rare feat, one which I had not witnessed before.”

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