06 August 2010

Engineering students revved up in racing showdown

Formula One car manufacturers were given a run for their money last month when a talented team of University of Sheffield students built their own racing car, before taking it for a spin at Silverstone.

Using £5,000 in funding from alumni donations, £3,000 from the Wilson Memorial Fund and £2,000 from sponsors iSport International, a mix of 22 Mechanical and Aerospace students from the University's Faculty of Engineering, managed to fashion a home-made racing car. The team used a mild steel tubular space frame, hand moulded glass fibre bodywork, custom machined steel and aluminium suspension parts and a range of pre-manufactured parts at discounted prices.

The challenge was part of the 2010 Formula Student event, an engineering competition for students which is held annually in the UK and run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The competition sees student teams from around the world design, build, test and race a small-scale Formula style racing car, in a bid to encourage them to utilise their engineering skills and teach them about team working and coping under pressure.

The University of Sheffield team drew upon their engineering expertise to create their streamlined single-seater vehicle, which took each person, on average, around 400 hours of their personal time to make. Once it was completed, the students revved up their car´s engine at Silverstone and joined a fleet of mechanically and electrically driven cars designed and built from scratch by students across the world for the competition, which saw them race around the track.

The cars, which needed to be low in cost, easy to maintain and reliable, were judged on a number of criteria, including their performance in terms of acceleration, braking and handling qualities. The University of Sheffield´s speedy motor managed to come in 62nd place out of 76 cars racing and took 30th place in the cost event, thanks to the team's thrifty approach to the build.

Team leader Marissa Bole, a student from the University of Sheffield´s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: "Formula Student is an absolutely fantastic opportunity for putting practical engineering skills to the test and for networking with industry professionals and peers alike.

"The whole team worked incredibly hard and gained so much from the experience. We were proud enough just to get to competition; so to finish 62nd in our first ever year at the competition, on the smallest budget of all the teams, with little motorsport experience and only five weeks of build time, was a huge achievement. Now that we have a better idea of what is involved, we hope next year we will be able to dramatically improve both our static and dynamic performance to finish at least in the top 50."

Ruth Stanley, Deputy Director of Development in the Alumni Relations Office at the University of Sheffield, said: "The Formula Student project is a wonderful example of how donations make a huge difference to our students´ university experience, and help them develop skills that will serve them and society extremely well in the future. Donations from alumni and friends have helped many other projects like Formula Student, which enhance learning and teaching facilities, and inspire our students to deepen their knowledge and skills in their subject. We are extremely grateful to all our alumni and friends for their donations, because they really do help our students to achieve their full potential."