Building for speed - 1

Pictured, from left, are team mentor Jim Radmann, Isaac Dommer, Grafton High School instructor Mike Dodge and 5 Corners President Eric Weninger, and kneeling is Owen Pryga. Not pictured is team member Del Schuler.

GRAFTON — Area high school students with a passion for motorsports, engineering and technology have a unique opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the sport of auto racing through the Wisconsin Formula Student USA project.

The focus of the project is to help students develop the engineering and technical skills that are vital to manufacturers. They learn laser cutting, welding, machining, fiberglassing and design using CAD, Solidworks and Fusion 360 programs. Students come from across the state and country.

Cedarburg resident Jim Radmann, father of a 19-year-old who is immersed in the racing culture, has voluntarily organized a program through Grafton High School that allows high schoolers to learn the intricacies of what makes an Indy car work.

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Radmann said 12 Wisconsin schools are participating in the program, as well as teams from Ohio, Michigan and Colorado. Radmann works with SAE, SCCA, MCSCC, SVRA and other race organizations and key individuals.

At this point, Radmann's team of three attends Grafton High School, but he's hoping to add students from other high schools in the area. Each team is responsible for constructing a replica race vehicle according to a strict set of guidelines that help the students construct a safe vehicle that closely resembles the current SCCA Formula First race vehicle.

"These kids are some of the best and brightest," Radmann said. Involved students race cars at Slinger and most have part-time jobs after school.

"The hands-on work, the life skills, the experience in what is done in real-world manufacturing, is what these kids get to learn," Radmann said. "The scope of this project is a big undertaking. It is a big commitment in time and effort. The kids even come in during spring break to work on the build."

In addition to building the car, each member of the team has to drive it, so the necessity for perfection is obvious to all. The group will be taking the car to Road America for road testing in the near future.

"I believe we can develop this program further in coming years to a college-level program in partnership with SAE, trade school and technical school programs, and even use AI (artificial intelligence) to create an autonomous formula student vehicle as well as a hybrid," Radmann said.

He found the perfect partner in his endeavor. Mike Dodge is the technical education instructor at Grafton High School. He teaches welding, machining and engineering and also coaches wrestling, Battlebots and First Robotics.

"It's one thing to make a hammer handle to the right size," Dodge said. "But when parts need to interchange, they have to be accurate."

Radmann said these students will go on to college. Graduates from past years attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, UW-Platteville and Marquette University. They have the opportunity to get in at the college level and go on to professional motor sports like Indy and Nascar.

The third partner in the project is Eric Weninger, president of 5 Corners Isuzu Truck & Auto in Cedarburg.

"When Jim asked me if he could keep the car at our dealership, I knew it was an all-around win, for the kids involved as well as the school," Weninger said. He also shares his automotive expertise with the club members.

The car will be in the dealership showroom for at least the next couple of weeks. Radmann said, "Eric is our biggest supporter. He makes it a whole lot easier for the team," he said. All of this, of course, comes at a cost. Parts, services and travel expenses don't come cheap.

"The car is worth $10,000," Radmann said. "Sponsors are always welcome." Radmann is vice president of Network Operations Center Cable Response TV. He can be reached at