It’s about more than just winning
Before the race at the Hockenheimring, the cars are designed, built and refined over a period of months at the universities. For the students, it’s all about satisfying scientific curiosity and putting their skills to the test on a real race track. “No seminar can teach you what you learn here,” says Max Ehrfeld. If he could choose any job, it would be in the aerodynamics team at Porsche. And right now, there’s no better preparation. Using a load cell, he spent weeks assessing the impact of static and dynamic tensile loads on the vehicle – how the wind catches it; optimum road adherence; how the car saves fuel. This process taught him lots of really valuable lessons.
Moritz Aron (23) is also gaining important insights here. He is responsible for the transmission system in the electric vehicles. “The right lubricants play a crucial role in reducing wear,” he says, adding that the aim is to use oils with low viscosity. As low-viscosity oils flow better, there is less internal friction. After all, another key factor in the competition is keeping wear to a minimum to generate maximum efficiency.
Fellow colleague Sherif Nekkah (23), who headed the software team for the Karlsruhe students, even ventured into a completely new area. Before this project, he had no programming skills whatsoever and instead learned everything he needed to know while preparing for the race. “At first, getting an autonomous vehicle on the starting grid seemed like an impossible task,” he says. The “robot” racing car was fitted with a laptop, lidar sensors and a radio control unit. The technology successfully detected most of the bumps and obstacles on the Hockenheim track, although the car ultimately failed to make the grade due to a faulty radio link and broke down. A replacement part could not be found quickly enough. Nonetheless, KIT had taken second place the previous day, with only ETH Zurich collecting more points.
Setting up a Formula Student team is about more than just getting the right car-building and engineering knowhow. When you have an 80-strong team building three separate vehicles, good management is essential. Laura Vosseler (25) was responsible for the marketing activities. Even though, as a student of business engineering, she is more than capable of getting hands-on with car-building, it was this mammoth coordination task that really appealed to her. Laura Vosseler developed business plans and took care of social media channels as well as potential partners. “When so many students come together like this, it’s inevitable that teams and hierarchies form – and that requires leadership,” she says. And, of course, the necessary resources.