Engineering dreams pick up speed
The members of LiU Formula Student needed a great deal of takeout and late evenings in order for them to manage to design and build a race car over a year. They’re competing with the car in the Formula Student competitions at places such as the prestigious Silverstone track.
Felix Frey is marketing director of the board of the association, and group leader for the sponsor and PR group. He doesn’t hesitate when asked why they’re putting so much time into the association.
“We’re learning an awful lot and we get to work with some enormously cool technology. As soon as people come in and understand what opportunities they have, it just explodes. They work late evenings, weekends, during exam periods, it doesn’t matter – they’re here and get their part done. When you’ve put thousands of hours in together and then get to see the car roll off and join in the competition in England... It’s hard to explain the feeling.”
Right now, the association has around 60 active members from different years. All the engineering programmes at LiU are represented. Getting everything together is a major project management task. Members disappear into degree projects and independent projects, so new members are continually welcomed. A large database with documentation is an important asset, so the knowledge doesn’t disappear when people quit.
“People come in here without previous knowledge. But we put them into the system. They’re assigned a certain part of the car to be responsible for: brakes, muffler, or driver environment, for example. We work in teams, so no one is alone. After a while, you become an expert in your field.”
A large part of the work doesn’t deal at all with putting parts onto the car. People are needed to maintain the website, to find and maintain contact with sponsors, and to push development forward. The association goes out to trade fairs, exhibiting the car and talking about their programmes as representatives for the university, and get sponsorship as thanks.
“Where else can you get the opportunity to design and build like this, with the capital and the opportunities we have? Of course you get to design and draw things in your courses, but here you can test it in the first-rate simulation programme – and after that you have all the materials you can think of for your part. You can be part of producing it, you can be part of testing it. You can install it on a car that will run later. Somehow, that thing is the engineer right to the core. What people, even in their first year, realise they’re passionate about.”
The association spends their time in the workshop of the Machine Construction programme in A Building. There are ingenious machines there to help with manufacturing what they need. They’ve done the majority of the production themselves and are working hard to acquire resources for the association.
“Industry and business understand the importance of this. They go in and support us with everything from products to pure sponsorship in the form of capital, or knowledge and consulting. In turn, they reach out to the best, most driven engineers before they’re even out of university, and can bring them in for degree projects or employment. We have several alumni who started working at their sponsors, and also those who got top jobs in major industries.”
The university is involved, and the association has professors and doctoral students who are committed. Three bachelor’s degree projects from different programmes are developing parts for the car over the spring. A ‘faculty advisor’ – a highly-placed manager in the industry – comes once a week and checks with the board.
“It’s very rewarding to have someone to share ideas with, someone experienced. And we have alumni out in the industry that we get an extreme amount of feedback from.”
Formula Student is a sanctioned competition for students with its own event. Fifteen thousand students in 43 countries participate. The competition was started by Imech – the Institution of Mechanical Engineers – who wanted to let engineering students broaden their views, practice teamwork, and design things even during their time at school. Not only speed and powerful driving properties are assessed. One important part is being able to report on the choices made – being able to show that the team did its best based on the conditions they had, for example finances and access to materials. It’s a question of having the documentation in order and being able to answer the jury’s questions.
“You need to have a lot of data all the time, that shows it’s been thought through from design to completed product. They ask about all the design details on the car. You need to be able to show why it looks like it does, your calculations in simulations, or alternatively validations of design tests. If we designed something in CAD and put many thousands of hours into it, and then we put it into the car and then don’t check, did it turn out the way we thought? We’ll also be doing a ‘business presentation’. We’ll be holding a 10-minute sales pitch for the jury.
The car looks quite empty right now, but on 17 May it will be ready and presented to the University at a mingle event.”
Text Annika Johansson, photo Annika Johansson (Felix Frey), Imech (the 2015 car in action).
Last updated: 2018-06-07