Ever since the first microprocessors saw the light of day, their processing power has continued to increase exponentially with every passing year. At the same time, their size has been massively reduced. Processors have come to be used day-to-day on a scale that was previously inconceivable. In areas such as motor racing, to name just one example, the significance of the emerging technologies was recognised at a relatively early stage. Here, sensors were implemented in order to be able to constantly monitor all of the racing car’s relevant operating parameters and manage these if required. And in the “Scuderia Mensa”, more and more electronic systems are being integrated into technical processes. They are usually dominated by mechanical systems. From a cable-operated accelerator pedal to an electrical one. From a gear lever to a solenoid switch! The trend towards electrification is also leaving its mark on student racing teams.
Most Formula Student teams have set up a dedicated department in order to overcome such challenges. This exclusively deals with the electrical systems in the vehicles and is responsible for the requirements mentioned above. Within the Scuderia Mensa, the Electrics Team assumes this task. We put a few questions to this team so as to shed a little more light on their work process. In doing so, we hope to give a general glimpse “under the bonnet” of the work done by a Formula Student team.
Could you all please briefly summarise what your task involves in the Scuderia Mensa team?
“First and foremost, we are responsible for designing the cable harness true to scale in CAD software. And after that manufacturing it and integrating it into the vehicle. When doing so, the most important thing is to ensure that all of the connections and dimensions are correct and that the right cross-sections have been chosen.”
There are 5 of you electricians within a team of 50 people.
That equates to 10% of the Scuderia Mensa’s manpower. What is your workload like?
“We mostly tackle the tasks assigned to us on weekends. We’re students studying on cooperative degree courses, so we work in ordinary companies from Monday to Friday. However, we also do a fair amount of work after our team meetings; the entire team is on site then, after all. This makes it much easier to coordinate things with each other. We’re probably talking about a total weekly commitment of 5-10 extra hours that we dedicate to the Scuderia.”
Student engineering teams often lack a certain expertise due to the constant turnover of members.
How do you address this problem in your team?
“We generally rely a great deal upon our own initiative. That isn’t to say that knowledge in a certain subject is a prerequisite, but rather that members must acquire this knowledge themselves by spending an appropriate amount of time and motivation in pursuit of it. However, we also profit from the knowledge that has already been acquired by former Scuderia Mensa members or sponsors from industry. The fact that Herth+Buss sponsor us by providing extra materials and resources also contributes to increasing the efficiency of our work.”
What do you all find so exciting about the Formula Student competition.
Would you recommend other students to join a student racing team?
“Above all, it gives ordinary students a fantastic opportunity to gain practical experience. Even if you’re just helping out in the workshop and pitching your ideas to the team every now and then. All of the theoretical knowledge acquired in the course of lectures is actually put into practice here. […] you definitely get a lot out of it.”