The end of semester has arrived and while most students are sharpening their exam pencils, engineering students have instead put their mathematics text books aside and are researching a different kind of formula.
Over the past week engineering students from the Sydney Motorsport team have assessed and test driven their very own Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) competition vehicle at the University of Sydney’s farm and research facility. Based in Marulan, NSW, the facility includes a racecar track, automotive workshop and tarmac.
The students have used their knowledge in aerodynamics, mechanics and physics to assemble a go-kart sized vehicle, which features a custom motor, frame and finishes designed and built from scratch.
In early December the car will be raced at the annual Formula SAE competition, an internationally recognised motorsports race where students from over 30 universities create a hypothetical company commissioned to design a marketable and profitable formula style car.
Over the past week, the Sydney Motorsport team’s race car drivers performed acceleration tests, difficult stunts and manoeuvres which saw the vehicle reach a top speed of 111km/hr.
Managing the project for the past two years, the team’s Chief Engineer, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics student, Stephen Zi Yang Huang, is confident about the University’s chances.
“I believe this year will be one of this team’s most reliable and confident seasons. We have done a lot of testing, and it’s through that testing we have ironed out a lot of issues which we would otherwise have encountered at the competition.
“We also have really good, capable drivers this year, so it’s looking very positive.”
Motivated not just by a need for speed, but by a love of tinkering, debugging and building things by hand is what has attracted many students to the project.
“I didn't have much interest in race cars to begin with, all I wanted to do was be part of the competition. What’s really good about building the vehicle is a sense of satisfaction when something works. Things will always go wrong but it’s when you overcome adversity that it's really great,” said Stephen.
“The competition is designed to be a learning experience, not only to learn about engineering but also business and project management. Whether we win or lose, I’ve still become a better engineer," he continued.
For the past two years, Stephen has also developed a long-term strategy so future teams can inherit shared knowledge.
“We wanted to create a conservative model so that future teams could rely upon it and build upon its success," he said.
Other students who grew up racing and repairing cars and go-karts saw the competition as an opportunity to gain professional experience and to wedge their racing boot in the door of a highly competitive automotive industry.
Selected to inherit the position of Chief Engineer in 2019, competition driver and Mechanical Engineering student, Jackson Bowden has long driven go-karts and been interested in the sport.
He believes the best parts of the competition have been the comradery of the close-knit team, and the opportunity to put theory into practice with a hands on project.
“I think the best part about the team is how we are all pretty close, when we come to Marulan we are able to have a laugh with each other.”
“When I’m on campus, the workshop is the only place I want to go,” he said.
A knack for running a business is considered a valuable skill by the Sydney Motorsport team. It's also an element the students will be judged on at December's Formula SAE competition.
Whether we win or lose, I’ve still become a better engineer.
Mechanical Engineering student Jack Madew was looking for extracurricular activities to help him gain more experience when he was made the team’s business lead.
“Planning out everything, making sure everything runs smoothly and getting the finances done is what I enjoy.”
And as for one day working for the real Formula 1, he said, “If the opportunity arose, of course I would. This society has really made me consider it, whereas I never would have before.”
The Sydney Motorsport team will be competing against other universities from 6–10 December at the Winton Motor Raceway, Victoria.