Posted Thursday 22 July 2021
A team of student engineers from Kingston University is set to pit its race car against others from around the world after arriving at Silverstone for the annual Formula Student competition.
The University team, supported by academics and technicians from the Faculty of Science, Computing and Engineering, has spent the past 18 months designing and building a single seater race car which it will put to the test in a series of gruelling events at the home of British motorsport.
Built from the ground up in the University's Roehampton Vale campus workshop, using a wide range of engineering techniques from 3D printing to welding, students have worked on everything from the electronics to the chassis, suspension and body work, with the car going through its final pre-event testing last week.
The annual competition, which this year culminates in the live event at Silverstone between June 21-25, challenges university teams from across the world to design, build and run an internal combustion, electric, hybrid autonomous race car, with 140 teams worldwide taking part. Run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers(IMechE), it aims to help address the industry skills gap and provide practical experience to young engineers.
The team's leader, final year Mechanical Engineering BEng student Antonino Bartolotta, is bringing all his experience to bear at Silverstone, having previously led a team in the Baja SAE off-road vehicle design competition in his home country of Venezuela. "What I really love about Formula Student is how it puts into practice everything we've been taught in the classroom," he said.
"From shear stress to torque and momentum, we've come up with a design, put it together and tested it, finding out where we may have gone wrong and assessing how it behaves in reality. We're all really looking forward to the events now we're here, but we need to stay calm, focused and concentrate. As team leader, I've learned how to manage and motivate people and ensure we play to each of our strengths."
Both undergraduate and postgraduate engineering students at all levels from Kingston University have been working on this year's entry, with 18 students attending the Silverstone event. Each has had a role to play in the design and construction of this year's car - a lightweight, rugged design with an overall focus on reliability.
Over the coming days, their creation will be judged on acceleration, handling and efficiency across several events that see four selected drivers push the car to the limit, while engineering will be assessed by judges in design, costing and business presentation categories.
Aerospace engineering Masters student Thillaikkarasi Chandrasekaran, who completed her undergraduate aerospace engineering degree at the University last year, said taking part in projects of this nature would be hugely valuable when it comes to applying for jobs in industry.
"I wanted to learn more about the design process and gain some hands-on experience, which is so important when it comes to interviewing for engineering roles," she said. "It's been a lot of fun working through the various challenges, and also learning more about cars, as in aerospace we mainly focus on planes. Broadening my experience and knowledge through this project could really help open the door to mechanical roles for me in the future."
Throughout the past 18 months, students have been supervised in their work by mechanical, motorsport and automotive systems lecturer Patrick Sheen, alongside a team of technicians including Mayur Jani and Alan Staples, who previously worked in F1 for McLaren.
The competition provided a fantastic opportunity for budding young engineers to develop skills and confidence through a real world project, Mr Sheen said. "The students gain so much from Formula Student- from applying their knowledge through the technical elements, to working with companies to source materials and designing within set boundaries, all things they will do day-to-day in engineering roles in the future.
"For me though the main benefit is developing their ability to solve problems, and the confidence to come up with solutions when they only have a theoretical idea of whether they will work. It teaches them there is no right answer - there are a million ways to approach a problem and the students have to look at the pros and cons of each approach and work together to solve it. After more than a year of work, they now get to experience a proper racing week at Silverstone and compete against other teams – it's going to be a brilliant few days and we can't wait to get going."