Society profile: Formula Student Society
We caught up with Awais Yousaf and Paras Sidhu from the Queen Mary Formula Student Society to find out how they got on at the annual Formula Student competition at Silverstone in July, and what’s in store for the team in the coming months!
26 September 2017
Queen Mary Formula Student is Formula 1 for students. The team collaborates in a unique project that spans the entire academic year, with students from different backgrounds who are passionate about motorsports and eager to compete against the most innovative minds in this industry. The team recently competed in the annual Formula Student competition at Silverstone in July, hosted by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), where they designed, built and raced a formula style single seat race car. Formula Student is a world-renowned competition, which sees over 3,000 students compete in a high-performance engineering project, which is not only extremely valued by universities, but also by the leaders of the motorsport industry. It is the benchmark for graduates to meet, and a unique opportunity to gain real world experience in a racing team, competing against some of the most innovative minds in the industry. We caught up with Awais Yousaf and Paras Sidhu to find out how they got on in July, and what’s in store for the team in the coming months!
It’s been a while since we caught up with you and the team! How did all the preparation go leading up to the competition?
Well, for a start, the whole year was a crazy experience! This year the competition ran from Wednesday 19 July till Sunday 23 July. After having attended the IMechE ‘Learn to Win’ event in October 2016, where we had the opportunity to discuss ideas with the judges of the Formula Student competition, the team managed to get an engine started in November. This was a milestone achieved, but the team still had to overcome a lot of obstacles to make it to Silverstone in July 2017. We had majority of our designs completed by February/March, after which our team went away for their exam break. On their return in June, we had a solid six weeks to work on the physical build the car, as well as prepare ourselves for the business part of the competition. We have some great members within the team, who worked on the project alongside their summer internships. We had a few late nights, but through our team’s commitment and dedication, we placed the car on its own wheels for the first time at 8pm the day before the competition, after completing its build.
Wow, sounds like you had your hands full right up until the last minute! Tell us a bit more about the competition itself.
The competition is split into two main categories: Class 2 is where we just present the designs and business logic of the car, and Class 1, where we race the car we build.
Class 1 is further composed of different events – business presentations, cost presentations, design reports, and then there are the actual racing events, as well as scrutineering involving the tech, safety, chassis inspection, tilt test, brake test, skid pad and endurance.
Last year, we competed as a Class 2 team to get a feel for the competition and get feedback from judges. Following this success, we went to Silverstone this July with a car and competed as a Class 1 team.
What about the business and cost presentations? Tell us more about those and how your team performed.
The business presentation is essentially where we flesh out our business plan using the car we developed as a prototype. We show how we would ramp up production over a period of ten years, and develop a business on the back of this which would eventually breakeven and reach profitability. We had to present our distribution channels, and how we would market our business. It’s time-limited, so we only had 10 minutes to present these aspects, during which we had to pitch to an investor from whom we would ask for investment in return for a stake in our company. This year we asked for £750,000 to get our business off the ground and managed to rank 29th out of 69 teams for this part of the competition.
The cost report is essentially looking through where we spent money on our prototype car, and justifying why we spent in these areas as opposed to others. We had to talk in depth about components such as the engine and justify its cost. During manufacture, we saved money on the bodyworks as we developed these in-house, so we were awarded points on that as well.
It sounds like they went really well! How did you do in the competition overall?
Our team arrived at the campsite on Wednesday and while the engineering team added the finishing touches to the car, the operations team continued their work on getting ready for the cost and business presentations.
The competition was completely new to most of the team. For some people, it was their first opportunity to visit a Formula 1 track up close, and competing on it just made the whole experience all more exciting. We met some leading engineers from the industry – people like Willem Toet, former Head of Aerodynamics of the Sauber Formula 1 team. Seeing over 74 teams working together and giving each other friendly support was an invaluable experience.
It was our first car so we were expecting some problems. We wanted to get through the scrutineering process as soon as possible, so that we can correct any issues highlighted by the panel. Few technical issues were highlighted, which with great effort, our team managed to resolve. When we went back the next day the scrutineers were surprised how quickly we had addressed the issues on their list, and we passed the scrutineering for that stage – something that normally takes longer to achieve.
We did amazingly well – and won the Best Newcomers Award from IMechE! That’s an amazing achievement considering it was our first year, and something we were not expecting at all. This project has been running for more than 12 years but this is the first time we were actually able to build a car and make history in Queen Mary.
That’s amazing, congratulations! What factors do you think got you to this point?
The biggest factor contributing to our success was the quality of our people. Collaboration has been key, and is something that we have put great value and emphasis on throughout the year. One of the reasons why I think we could present a car this year was because we allowed this collaboration to happen seamlessly.
We wanted to make sure that the communication between the teams was fluent, so every week the whole team would meet and work together in a common area. It was crucial that people from different teams could network and understand everyone else’s role. Teams can work online, but I feel that face time is important towards achieving greater versatility.
The skill set that our team members develop cannot be found in any other society. We aren’t just building a car here, we have other aspects too such as in marketing, communications, finances and raising sponsorships.
We also have students ranging from undergraduate level all the way up to PhD across different schools, so it’s a very broad project which we are trying to make university-wide rather than simply an engineering project.
So, what’s in store for next few months now that the new academic year is beginning?
Currently we are running our recruitment drive for the academic year 2017/18, applications for which close at midnight, Sunday 1 October. Since we have received great interest so far, we have decided to leave applications open for a week longer than last year, also partly because we wanted to give students who haven’t yet arrived on campus a chance to apply. We may do a second round of recruitment should a position become available during the year, and/or closer to the competition to help us work on the car and get ready for Silverstone. Look out for opportunities in the future!
In October, we have Learn to Win, which is an event run by IMechE. This is where they bring all the interested Formula Student teams together in one room and give hints and tips on how to maximise the amount of points we are awarded by the end of the competition in July. The idea is that we receive valuable information from the leading experts in the industry. The connections we build there can be utilised throughout the year, since IMechE is always willing to help. We met Sam Collins during Learn to Win last year, and his guidance has been invaluable.
The team aims to use the momentum gained from the successes of this past year and return to Silverstone with an even stronger entry.
What would you say is the biggest takeaway from the competition this year?
Literally everything! Commitment and teamwork are two of the main characteristics you need to be successful in this competition.
One thing I admired the most throughout the event is the Formula Student family. No matter what your level of experience, exposure or expertise is, everyone works together towards a common goal and are willing to help each other achieve it.
If people are interested in joining the society, or just keeping up to date with what you’re doing, where can they go?
Please email email@example.com and a member of our team will be more than happy to help.
We also have an expansive internet presence, links for which can be found below:
Website – www.qmformulastudent.co.uk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/QueenMaryFormulaStudent
Twitter – www.twitter.com/QueenMaryFS
Instagram – www.instagram.com/qmformulastudent/
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/company/queen-mary-formula-student
YouTube – www.youtube.com/channel/UCv37FZ7V8UrOIcvUq7Q6Gvg