Schurr's Engineering Skills Road Ready
Quad Cities Online - Rock Island Argus (sports section) - June 17, 2010
Roger Ruthhart -

Sherrard's Tyler Schurr always has had an interest in motorsports.  His pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Illinois provided a unique opportunity to combine the two passions.

While still at Sherrard High School, he started his own motor-building company - Schurr Power Racing Engines - along with his cousin, Andy Dochterman.  Its original intent was to build high-performance 4-cycle engines for kart racing, which is still its primary focus.

But the company also rebuilds and blueprints engines for racers in any class, any rules or no rules.  In 2008, the focus of the business took a big shift when it purchased a CNC mill and began to offer machining services to other engine builders and the general public.  Today, Schurr says, many engine builders send him precision work they do not have the tools to accurately complete themselves. He has also branched into custom components that are not racing related.

The University of Illinois SAE Baja car (40) competes in an endurance race at a recent competition in Washington state. Tyler Schurr measures coordinate points for a part using a coordinate measurement machine. Tyler Schurr sits in the SAE Baja car that a team of University of Illinois engineering students designed and built, on the first night the car was on its wheels. Photo is from the team shop at the U of I.

After graduating from high school, he pursued a degree in physics from Augustana College and in May graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

This year, Schurr was the co-captain of a team at the university that competed in the Society of Automotive Engineers Baja program.  The international collegiate design series requires undergraduate students to design and build an off-road car.

The object of the competition is to simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges.  Each team competes to have its design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm. Students must function as a team to design, build, test, promote and compete with a vehicle within the rules.  They must also generate financial support for their project while still managing their education.

At the University of Illinois, students can take a course for up to 3 credit hours for their involvement with the project. Seniors also can choose to use the car for their Senior Design project - a major requirement for graduation from the engineering college.

"My role as co-captain is to handle administrative tasks, recruit new members, design the car, build the car, promote the team to obtain sponsors, lead the team toward a successful year and, of course, race the car at competition," Schurr explained.

The team has roughly 25 members.  It spent the first semester of the school year designing the car and doing computer-simulated analysis on a modeled version.  They began building the car in November and when completed, the car was entered into competitions against other university teams where it is judged on a variety of criteria.

Tyler Schurr works on the final assembly of the University of Illinois' 2010 SAE Baja car. University of Illinois SAE Baja team members at recent competition in Washington. Tyler Schurr of Sherrard is at far right.

In the first part of the competition, each team is judged on manufacturability, ergonomics, innovation, efficiency and well-thought-out engineering design.

The second half of competitions involves "dynamic events" like a hill climb, rock crawl, maneuverability, acceleration, endurance.

In this year's competition in Bellingham, Wash., the U of I team took 14th out of 99 teams.  That was the school's best finish ever.  In the design finals, they placed a school-best fourth, with a team from Venezuela winning.

"We feel we are a Top 10 team that had a few problems that caused us to lose valuable points.  But overall, we did not have any failures in our design. That has not been the case in previous years," said Schurr.  "The fourth place finish in the design finals was the highlight of the event since so much of our focus this year was on the design."

The car also finished 13th in the endurance race, 15th in the rock crawl and 17th in maneuverability.

Much of the car is built on campus in a facility furnished by the school, Schurr said.  Students learn to use a variety of manufacturing tools and methods.  This year's design included more complex machined parts than previous ones, so he used the CNC milling machine at his shop in Sherrard.

"Many teams out-source parts they need made. By making them in-house, students get to see the raw materials turned into a finished product," Schurr said.

The program allows future engineers to better understand how things are designed and produced. Students can then design components with manufacturing in mind, Schurr said.

"Many engineers in today's world design components without thinking about how it will be made.  This often leads to parts that are complex, nearly impossible to manufacture and very expensive. Projects like this can help minimize that problem," Schurr said.

Overall, the project not only has been a lot of work and a lot of fun, but also very educational.

"Many first-year members in engineering school have little or no understanding of what engineering is. They learn to use CAD programs and structuring analysis software.  We even do physical destructive testing of components to analyze our designs," said Schurr.

"Many students join with little knowledge of hand tools and other tools used in manufacturing.  Ironically, most do not know the difference between an open-ended and box-end wrench to start, but they all learn quickly and many become proficient with all of the equipment" as a result of their involvement with the SAE Baja project, he said.

While Schurr Power remains in the picture, Schurr is excited to have his first engineering job as a design engineer at Vizient Manufacturing Solutions in Bettendorf.  The company manufactures industrial tooling and robotic automation integration. They specialize in equipment for robotic welding.

This column is compiled by Roger Ruthhart and appears each Thursday in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus.  Please send items of interest to

Meet Tyler Schurr

  • Lives on family farm outside of Sherrard

  • Parents are Joe and Connie Schurr; two brothers, Brent (24) and Brandon (29).

  • 2005 graduate of Sherrard H.S.

  • Attended Augustana College for three years in a 3-2 pre-engineering program.  Graduated from Augustana in May 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in physics; graduated from University of Illinois in May 2010 with bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

  • Currently employed at Vizient Engineering, Bettendorf.

Baja SAE

  • Consists of three regional competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges.  Teams engineer off-road vehicles that must survive the severe punishment of rough terrain and sometimes water.

  • All vehicles are powered by a 10 horsepower Intek Model 20 engine donated by Briggs & Stratton Corp.  The support for more than 25 years enables the SAE program to provide each team with a dependable engine free of charge and put all teams on equal power footing, focusing the emphasis on design.

  • The SAE Collegeiate Design Series also includes Aero Design, Formula Hybrid and Clean Snowmobile challenges.