Gator Electric Racing is a fully electric student racing team at the University of Florida. The program aims to continue the development of its sustainable framework and change the future of electric vehicles.
Gabriela Vukaj, the Vice President of Gator Electric Racing, is a fourth-year student majoring in finance at the University of Florida. She decided to go to UF because of the good programs the university offers and the sponsorships they provide for first-generation students. Initially, Vukaj wasn’t planning to be involved in the team full-time because she wanted to pursue a career as a consultant.
“I noticed that they had a lot to work on in the non-technical side such as branding, public relations, marketing, and finance. So I decided to join full-time so I could help them build a sustainable model to continue with for years moving forward,” Vukaj said.
Lawson Hutter, the electrical lead on the team, had his mind set on attending UF throughout high school. While completing his high school internship, he met a representative who had a lot of students working for SpaceX, an aerospace company that he wants to work for in the future. All of the students had graduated from UF which prompted him to follow in their footsteps.
Hutter got involved with Gator Electric Racing through Gator Motorsport, an organization that he was already a part of where he worked with combustion engines. Most of the members of Gator Motorsport were the founding members of Gator Electric Racing. As the current electrical lead, Hutter mentors and guides the new members with the software they use and the tasks they do.
“Regarding the technical side of the program, we are on a two-year track to get a car on the road and get a car into competition. Everything is focused on the accumulator, which is the battery and the immediate surrounding parts,” Hutter said.
The development of Gator Electric Racing started in 2019 with the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers’ (FSAE) Europe division going fully electric. The purpose of the program is to start preparing for the country’s potential transition into a fully electric competition. The program is also involved in competitions where they compete with cars from all around the world under a certain set of rules.
“We do a variety of competitions. The main race is formula-style left and right turns and there are other sections where judges talk to the designers and ask them how well they know the design,” Hutter said.
Working collaboratively is a very crucial element to Gator Electric Racing because it allows the members to ask questions and gain different perspectives that can impact their work. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the members have found ways to continue their work within a virtual setting.
“We have virtual shop hours where everyone goes on zoom from around 7 to 9 p.m. and works on whatever item that they would normally work on in the shop,” Vukaj said.