The school has an '83 Camaro drag racing car, a Formula SAE car, and a Legends team which has since been retired in favor of a Pro Challenge car. Each one of these cars spend time on the racetrack and is completely maintained and operated by the students and faculty of UNCC. The Camaro is a purpose-built drag car intended more for those students interested in making maximum horsepower in an engine while enhancing motor longevity.

The Formula SAE car competes against other schools across the nation at Michigan International Speedway in an annual contest sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), where students have to design, fabricate, and build, a car from the ground up. The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target-marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds, and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is to ensure onsite event operations and promote clever problem solving.

Formula SAE promotes careers and excellence in engineering as it encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management, and finances. Formula SAE takes students out of the classroom and allows them to apply textbook theories to real work experiences.

Today, the competition has expanded and includes a number of spin-off events. In the United States, there are three locations: California, Michigan, and Virginia; Michigan being the largest event and longest running.

Finally, the Pro Challenge team competes in a full-bodied Pro Challenge car at tracks like, Hickory Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Concord Motorsports Park, and Dillon Motor Speedway. The car, new for 2009, is in the early stages of being built. In fact, the day I was visiting the school the car and most of the students were actually at Brown and Miller Racing (one of the program's sponsors) getting wired and plumbed for an upcoming race.

"We couldn't do what we do without our sponsors," says Cuttino. Brown and Miller is just one of many sponsors who help by contributing parts and pieces to each of the teams. In many cases, the sponsors also work with students on their respective teams.

While students spend the majority of their time in the classroom or lab setting, the race teams allow the students to take what they have learned from the classroom and apply it to a real world situation. For instance, the school has several CNC machines and, as part of the program's class instruction, students learn not only how to work the machines but also how to design parts made in the machines using a computer program called SolidWorks. When the students need to fabricate a part, they can design and machine the part themselves without ever leaving campus.

This type of methodology is applied to most of the machinery in the motorsports program. Students spend time on the engine dyno, shock dyno, and flow bench, so that when it comes time to enter the job market they can hit the ground running with both a degree and hands on experience.

The program's latest project is a brand-new water tunnel. Similar to a wind tunnel, the water tunnel is designed to analyze the aerodynamics of an object. The tunnel allows you to watch moving water go across an object and view where the "dirty air" is being created. UNCC's water tunnel was built entirely by students and faculty and is the fifth largest in the country. It's already drawing attention from some Cup teams.