Whilst some universities will have their Formula car on a plinth next to their entrance, UoN does not as yet have one to put on display, hence many people are not even aware that a team of students is designing one to compete at Silverstone in a secluded engineering lab on University Park. Impact caught up with mechanical engineering students Salomé Sanchez (Formula Student Team Leader), Ben Sheard (MotoStudent Team Leader) and Joao Rosa (Formula Student Business Team Leader) to find out about their plans to add a Formula car to their hugely successful bike projects.
What is UoN Racing?
SS: There are three teams within UoN Racing. Electric Superbike, Formula Student Team and MotoStudent Team. Formula Student basically design and make a Formula 1 style car to race against other universities from around the world.
JR: There is also a business side. You have to design everything within the car, all the parts. But the business side covers everything, you have to report all the costs within the car and transpose that into a real world scenario where you are a real car company actually manufacturing a car.
SS: We are judged on speed and design, but almost 50% of the competition is judged on the business side of it. We have to do a Dragon’s Den type of presentation where we ask for money and talk about how we could mass manufacture and make the design more efficient.
BS: Formula 1 is professional, and Formula Student is designed by students. The managers, designers, production is all driven by students.
Does this form part of your Mechanical Engineering degrees?
BS: For most people. A lot of the students start as extracurriculars. First and second years will be extracurriculars. If they get to third year and they want to do it as a group project, it becomes part of their degree.
I was originally on something called the Big Bike when I was extracurricular. Now I’ve moved onto MotoStudent, which is what we call the Little Bike. The Big Bike was the start of UoN Racing.
How many hours of your day does this take up?
SS: This takes a lot of time and hard work from everybody. It’s more than a normal project.
BS: Every team is relying on your team. If you fail, there’s sixty other people that have put in days and nights to make it work. If it doesn’t run, then you’re letting down lots of other people rather than just yourself.
Are you secretive about your designs?
BS: I think some unis get very secretive. We’ve visited some top universities in Europe, they’ll have their racing department like us, but the Formula Student bit has blacked out windows. They’re industry sponsored, working with BMW for example. For us though, anyone can come and look at our car.
At the moment we’re behind those teams, but because UoN is a big, prestigious university, we don’t want to be running at the bottom of the pack. We know that we’re not suddenly going to go to competitions and beat BMW’s German teams, but we can’t be at the back of the pack as the University of Nottingham. The size of our university demands it.
There’s a lot of pressure on the car, because of the success of our bike. The bike started it all and did really well, which gave us the interest and funding for Formula Student. We are one of the top universities in the world for the bike, you can’t do that and not demand the same from the car.
SS: We are looking for more sponsors for the car, but obviously we need a track record first. It’s an area we really need to work on.
What particular technologies and innovations in the car are you proud of?
SS: For the car, when we go to the competition it will be the first UK four wheel drive electric car. Last year, people were particularly interested in the gearbox we had. Because we are four wheel drive, we have an electric motor at each wheel and a planetary gearbox that does the transfer to the wheel.
With all three projects, the designs are complete and the teams will now move into the manufacturing phase. Ben Sheard highlighted how this transition to the next stage flagged up many changes that need to be made to the designs.
What would you say to somebody who doesn’t think this is a sport?
BS: Look at any high level racer and tell me they’re not an athlete, or that there’s no competition. It’s like a sport but supplemented by engineering. It’s like cycling, the majority of improvement in cycling world records has actually come down to the bicycle, not the athlete. You can’t tell people they should be racing on a bicycle that’s sixty years old.
Is it possible for other students to get involved in the team?
BS: Yes. I would say to them, come down, and tell us what you’re interested in. Even if you’re not an engineering student, tell us what you’re interested in and we’ll tell you what you can do.
SS: We really need people from all backgrounds. We need people from Business, from Economics, we also need help with stuff like media too.
BS: Even if it’s not related directly, say if you’re a languages student, the passion is the key bit, rather than the ability. If you want to do it, we can find something.
Images courtesy of UoN Racing.