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Formula SAE team opens its doors on Tech Night

24 July 2018

On Wednesday 18 July the Faculty of Engineering’s Formula SAE team opened up its workshop doors to offer an update on the build progress for this year’s car.

The annual Tech Night was attended by industry representatives, faculty staff and past team members as well as family and friends of the current group. Everyone had a chance to wander through the workshops and – with the help of the many team members – get to understand some of the processes involved in building a car from the ground up each year.

Team Leader Lizzy Grant started the presentations with discussing the history of the team and outlining the many ways they will be judged once it heads off to compete in Melbourne in December. The cars are judged on much more than their on-track performance, with part of the score determined by static events such as presenting a business case for the vehicle.

Lizzy also discussed the growth of the team and how it continues to attract new students each year. Another 19 students have devoted their time this year, with 9 of those joining the electrical subgroup, which is important since the team switched from internal combustion engines to electric powertrains in 2016.

Former Team Leader and now Chief Engineer Blake Roberts offered progress updates on this year’s car, providing CAD renders and a list of target specifications the team will work towards. The key aim, according to Blake, is to get the car developed early so they can start their testing programme long before it competes in December.

The team is still committed to electric power and have redesigned the monocoque to better suit this form of powertrain. It also brings further challenges; Blake mentioned the rain test component will be enforced this year which means the finished vehicle has to survive being flooded and still function safely.

Faculty Advisor Dr Eva Hakansson spoke as well, mentioning how proud she is of the team’s efforts. Eva has vast experience in building and racing electric vehicles, so her insight will be extremely valuable as the students work towards the completion of M018. She said she loves the Kiwi spirit that the team embodies and is continually impressed by the quality of the work they bring to design and management meetings. In a Facebook post she made after the event, Eva explained how committed the team are too.

“They love the work so much, we have to almost force them to leave the shop and go home. If the doors didn’t automatically lock at 11 pm at night and the security guards wouldn’t chase them out, they would work around the clock.”

After speeches there was a rare chance to see some of the team’s older cars being driven outside of competition and testing. They started with the M04, the first car the team ever built and one they're proud to have kept running over the years. Next up was the M014 which is currently used for driver training. The team intended to run the M017 as well to show the differences between the earlier cars that were powered by an internal combustion engine and the later electric models but the Auckland winter weather put a stop to it.

Tech Night was a chance for people to get an idea of how our Formula SAE team operates and what goes into the design and construction of one of these vehicles. The results of their hard work will be on display at Launch Night later in the year. Until then, you can follow their progress on Facebook and their website.