What we have been up to
We know it’s been a while since our last update. Life got in the way, as they say. But all that matters now is that we're back and we want to tell you all about what we have been doing all this time. Frankly, it has been quite a busy summer and we’re now working harder and harder for a busier-than-ever autumn. Without further ado, let us tell you the latest tea.
FS UK Concept Class
For us, participating in the 2021 FS UK competition meant the end of Season 3 of Formula Student. It was quite a ride, but most importantly it has given us a moment of reflection that allowed us to look back on our progress and realize how much we’ve grown as a team.
We started in 2019 with a dream to build a single-seater vehicle with our colleagues and now we have a team of students that put their time, knowledge, and a lot of effort into the development of the car, while also evolving themselves and helping their teammates do the same. Together we learned advanced mechanical and electronics design, acquired business and presentation skills, and strengthened our overall knowledge of everything that it takes to be a part of a Formula Student team.
This motivated us, even more, to make the best out of the second part of 2021, and bring out, as soon as possible, a rolling chassis that we can leave as a proof-of-concept for future students in our University. Because Formula Student is also about the legacy we leave to future engineers.
How we did at FS UK 2021
The competition comprises three static events: Business Plan Presentation, Engineering Design Report, and Cost Report. Each of these are composed of both a written document, as well as an oral presentation. Normally we would explain and justify our ideas and decisions in front of the judges, but this year we did it all online (we were still nervous, though, trust us when we tell you that the pressure was real).
Now let’s walk you through how the competition felt for us, how we tackled our tasks and addressed this year’s assignment.
Business Plan Presentation
Summary: One of the most important aspects of both automotive development and motorsport is the business outlook, as it is a key performance indicator of what your car or concept can bring to the table. This is how the Business Plan Presentation works: We are given a scenario and must come up with the most profitable business plan idea in order to offer satisfying returns to our potential investors. As automotive manufacturers, we should be able to establish revenue lines and work together with partners in order to offer the best Return-on-Investment (ROI).
In this case, we were the manufacturers of competition single-seaters that had the business opportunity to access over 20 karting circuits in the UK. The business value proposition that we came up with was organizing a single-mark competition that used our vehicles and offered the drivers a ready-to-race experience. The competition was tailored for professional drivers that could come to the track and ride, without having to go through the hassle of organizing technical aspects or logistics for the competition.
Feedback & reflection: We concluded that our main selling point was the sustainability of the vehicles we lent, as our business was focused on keeping the lifespan of the single-seaters as long as possible by minimizing car damage, repair costs, and the need for spare parts. The questions the judges asked us were well-thought and made us see the discussed topic from a different angle. Overall, we had fun imagining this scenario, we learned that there are always way more things to take into consideration than you first think of and we had the opportunity to receive great feedback, which now motivates us to deliver even a greater presentation next year.
Engineering Design Report
Summary: For the engineering design report, the main purpose was to best explain the design decisions and the reasoning behind how and why certain parts were made, designed, or bought.
This report is the most complex one of all the static events for designing a single-seater takes a lot of expertise from different fields, such as electronics, powertrain, engine and so on, and a lot of coordination in order to make sure the architecture of the vehicle is optimal.
Everything that we did physically had to be written in the EDR, but we figured you'd rather see us working than just staring at some technical words in a Google Doc, so enjoy!
Feedback & reflection: After the competition, feedback was well received and we asked Andu (Team Leader of the Powertrain Department), Mihai (Team Captain), and Grig (Team Leader of the Electronics Department) how the presentation felt for them and what they learned from this year’s experience.
Andu: “Even though I presented to the judges the powertrain of our car, they also asked questions about other parts, like chassis and aerodynamics. So, even if we are split into several departments, I think what the judges were trying to do, considering the fact that we are a new team, is that they were trying to make us realize that the development of a racing car is not just a chassis, some spoilers and an engine that is bolted on.
Every part in the car has its effect on other parts, so it is a continuous integration of every system into the final product, and everything should work in harmony to deliver the best final result. All in all, working on and presenting the EDR was an eye-opening experience that allowed us to gain some insight into the further development of our car.”
Mihai: "It was my first time presenting a design report. At first, I was nervous, then slowly but surely we managed to lighten the atmosphere. After all, the judges wanted to see how our critical thinking skills work and how logical our thought process was when we designed the vehicle.
Of course, there were questions about parts I hadn't worked on that I didn't know how to answer, but what matters is that we reached our goal. Now I am confident I have the abilities to help my teammates learn more efficiently and I know how we can build a better car."
Grig: “Though it seemed simple at first, taking care of the vehicle’s electronics was a bit trickier than we hoped. My experience with presenting the technical aspects of the electronics (wiring harness, custom circuitry, etc) from last year’s competition helped the electronics team better focus on the reasoning behind making choices.
We started with components that 'just worked', but after our first EDR session, we quickly realized, much thanks to the judges, that it’s more important to go further in detail than that, by optimizing as much as possible and finding the most suitable, well-thought solutions. In many cases, that led to the in-house manufacturing of circuits.”
Summary: During the cost report, we must best explain why we decided to make or buy certain parts. This year the competition asked for the presentation of CBOM, which is an acronym for costed bill of materials.
In the Cost Report, the team has to present how money is spent and how much each component costs. These costs also include hourly labour, how complex the tasks given are, the time it takes to design said components (if they are designed in-house), and how much the fixtures and jigs are needed to create certain parts cost.
Feedback & reflection: After the presentation, we spoke a bit with Calin, Team Leader of the Chassis and Aerodynamics Department. This is how the “interview” with him went:
Can you tell us a bit more about the documentation needed for this static event?
“Well, sure. In order to justify the costs stated in the CBOM document (Costed Bill of Materials), this document had to be accompanied by a Cost Explanation File, where everything was detailed. In this final document, we had the chance to show that we know how the manufacturing process influences the costs and how different materials call for different costs of purchasing and manufacturing.”
What did you learn from the FSUK competition?
“It was interesting to observe how all the little details of the manufacturing process add up to create the total cost. Using the tool developed by the FSUK team to centralize the components of each assembly and subassembly respectively, it was easy to organize them. I think we’ll use this in the future as well. Also, the part numbering scheme they offered was really good and proved to be very helpful for our part numbering notation.”
Did any questions from the judges stand out to you?
“I kind of knew what they could possibly ask me and I was prepared. However, during the presentation, we were asked to explain how are we divided into departments and how different departments interact with each other. Also, one notable question that we had to answer was the problem of how we create our manufacturing schedule. “
How did you receive the overall feedback?
“The feedback we got from the Cost Report Scrutineers was a very valuable one, as they helped us realize what and where we can improve, while also giving us important insights into the way we work and interact with each other and how we organize ourselves. We’re really excited to turn this new knowledge into action because it will also prove so valuable for our next year’s Cost Report. As for the second part of the feedback, the judges were amazed by the fact that we had considered in our CBOM the cost of welding gas and how this also adds a cost to the welding process. They said that we were one of the very few teams that thought about this and, I’m not going to lie, we felt amazing. The overall experience was great, but that last remark the judges made was the cherry on top.”
We continue to work on the vehicle, as we're being fueled by motivation and a strong will to finish what we started. The deadline is the end of the year, and we want to celebrate a great year of work by hearing that engine roar. For us and the current generation of UPB Drive alumni, all that we do, build, design, or teach, the connections we establish, and the networks we continuously create, is a form of legacy for the future members of our team and a mark (even so little) that we will leave in Formula Student history.