"We have a really good relationship with our alumni," Hermann said "We ask them questions about how to design things, build things and put them on the car. We also keep up with what they're doing in their lives. We reach out for advice about looking for jobs or internships or what it's like to live in this city or work for that company."

And therein lies the real point of the competition — to build skills that will help the students succeed after the race is done.

"It gives us a hands-on experience in engineering that we might not otherwise have," Keeth said. "We get experience with design, manufacturing and organizing a complex, long-term project. It uses a lot of skills we learn in class, but also forces us to learn a lot of things that are hard get in class."

Those skills are already paying off for Hermann and Keeth, both of whom already have jobs lined up for after graduation in May. Hermann will head to Colorado to work for the management-consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Keeth will go to work for Analog Devices, a Boston-based maker for circuits and semiconductor products.

But thoughts of their long-term futures will take a back seat when the competition gets underway. Once the flag drops, their singular focus will be getting Furiosa down the track as fast as they possible can.