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June 30, 2006

Formula Student update

So the car is nearly finished! And considering the competition starts on Wednesday, this is definitely A Good Thing. We nearly ran the engine last night, but someone had dropped the fuel rail when we took it off the dyno, and when the fuel pump pressurised the system it burst and petrol went everywhere just as Lambert's finger was nearly at the start button. Disaster averted by the narrowest of margins. It went on it's wheels on Wednesday, and the bodywork also arrived on Wednesday and is being fitted as I type this. I would be down in the pits helping but the conversation descended into football and I could stand no more, so I've left technicians and team-mates discussing 4-4-2 while I escaped to F211. When I get back hopefully we should have the new wheels turn up today, so the slick tyres can be fitted, and hopefully Matt should be there so I can finish plumbing in the brake system and then bleed that through. Once that's done, the calipers can be lock-wired on, the half shafts can be machined once the tool arrives today and then the drivetrain can be assembled, a replacement fuel rail is coming this morning so the engine will be in full working order, Scott will be finishing the firewall and the seat today, and then (fingers crossed) the car will be complete either tonight or sometime tomorrow. Testing will be Monday and Tuesday at MIRA, competition Wednesday–Saturday. And then, maybe, I can get some sleep. We might be having this Sunday off as well, which means I can go to RASE, which I'm very happy about. Yay for that.

December 14, 2005

Formula Student: End of term 1 update

Well considering as this has been the dominant thing going on this term for me, I guess it at least deserves a blog entry!

For the fourth year, engineering students have a group project they undertake (this is in lieu of a dissertation), worth 30 CATS. Teams are typically composed of 6 or so students, and they work together on an engineering task until the submission date in April. I am fortunate enough to be on a project called Formula Student , in which things are slightly different. The project is a competition run by the IMechE (Institute of Mechanical engineers), which basically sees teams design and build their own racing car. Although the project deadlines are the same for us as everyone else, the competition for real doesn't take place until July, so we carry on working (voluntarily) after the deadlines to get everything done.

As it's a big project, the Formula Student team is composed of 14 members. We are divided into subsections and each choose roles based on abilities and preferences. Look at the website for more info on this if you're interested. but basically there are three technical subgroups (Electronic, Chassis and Powertrain), and several administration/management subgroups. Each technical group is further broken down into individual components for which we are responsible for. I am co-ordinator of the Chassis sub-group and also a member of powertrain; basically it's my job to ensure the chassis group run smoothly and also in powertrain I do the engine cooling system. In chassis I am responsible for the tyres, wheels, brakes, suspension uprights and wheel hubs/axles.

This term has been pretty hectic. We have been given a much more compressed schedule than previous teams in order to fit in dynamic testing. Previous years have basically finished the build almost at the competition date; this year the university want us to have dynamic testing done by the time we hand in our project – basically have a running car 3 months earlier than anyone previously. This is a great idea, except for the fact that there's a reason everybody else's car takes so long to do – it's a massive undertaking. They aimed to help us with this task by constraining us to an engine that is known to the team (which hasn't proved a problem so far) and giving us a chassis frame to start off with. The latter, for various reasons, hasn't worked out at all, and basically around week 5/6 the decision was taken by the team that the responsibility for the chassis would be brought within the team instead. This meant that a couple of the chassis team then spent weeks toiling over the design work, sweating blood and tears and doing a brilliant job whilst the rest of us got restless. Unfortunately the handling of this problem was viewed by many on the team as management incompetence/lack of dedication on my part and as such my marks for this term have fallen a bit… Looking at it I don't think there's a lot more that I could have done whilst we were waiting for a design to emerge. Every meeting that was held someone else would stick ther oar in about what was wrong and more changes would then have to be made… Sadly it's part of the iterative process of design. If I'd have just put my foot down and said "no changes" from the start then we'd have ended up with something unbuildable, not at all well designed or usable and no-one would be happy with. I like to think that I struck a good compromise with this and handled it well, whether I have or not I don't know!

As a result of running around with chassis problems, my design work for this term has fallen somewhat behind schedule. I hope to catch up on this over the next couple of weeks now that I have CAD software on my computer; here's hoping I can get through my to-do list for Christmas! Anyway… Once the design was finalised about four weeks ago, it was crunch time for the build and everything started to pick up pace. A number of the chassis team stayed on for the first week of the holidays to get more done down in the workshops, as well as a couple of evenings in the last few weeks of term. Following last week's 6 day 8–6 marathon on the chassis, we are now at the stage where we have a fully assembled jig and most of the chassis tubes in position, barring a few at the front, the ones relating to the engine and a couple of bracing tubes. The tubes at the front are dependent on the steering rack mounting blocks; as the lead-time for manufacture was too long for these at university I've taken on the job of CNC milling then myself at home this week; it's going ok so far. I do at least have £23,000's worth of CNC mill to play with which is keeping me happy :) Once this is done I'll run them back up to uni and call it a day for this term on the building side of things.

Apart from that I've selected a radiator and ordered that, done some preliminaries on other cooling stuff and gotten some concepts and a direction for my designs relating to uprights and hubs. Brakes and tyres have been chosen (discs still need sorting), wheels remain a contentious issue as I first need to work out the offset and second argue my case with the finance people for spending some money on a decent set of wheels.

We've had a couple of trial runs in the old car this term which have had variable success. Our remapping of the engine has improved performance drastically (we've shaved over 2 seconds from the 0–60 time), and gained some valuable spanner-turning experience. I don't think we've gotten any familiarisation benefit at all yet from it; I'm hoping that next term the driver training and selection program will rectify this.

So that is basically Formula Student from my perspective this term!

July 2020

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