Formula Student

Formula Student 2019 pushes Autonomous development forward

Formula Student Team

This year's Formula Student competition opened with its usual flair with an opening ceremony held yesterday evening.

Now in her third year at the helm, Formula Student project manager Lucy Killington paid tribute to the committee, volunteers and staff who work tirelessly to organise the event and a reminder of the work involved.

This year’s opening ceremony was a celebration of alumni and autonomous vehicles, starting with the competition’s bespoke ADS-DV. Thanks to the financial support of the government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, the drone vehicle has been further developed and refined for students to get a start with autonomous vehicles development.

This was emphasised by the work that students at Coventry have been doing. Jeff Peters and Richard Nicholson, Senior Lecturer and Course Director respectively, spoke eagerly about their experiences in the project so far and that the hardest part was just to get the process started.
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“We had a long meeting and thought it would take 3 years, but after making the decision to start we spent an enjoyable few weeks getting started with development” explained Jeff. “Our project has really brought together the whole university, as we have students studying computer science, mechanical engineering and mathematics all working together. All areas talk a different language, so this is great preparation for the real world. If you as engineers can't talk to computer scientists or mathematicians then you can't do as well in industry.”

“Formula Student is on a different timescale for the competition and it can be hard to keep the interest of business or economics students” continued Richard. “By engaging with other faculties and having a multi-disciplinary team, it will help integration of different areas of the university into the project and they will have something amazing on their CV. We are astounded by how many job offers our students have already received.”

Coventry University are also the first university to procure their own version of the competition’s ADS-DV in a sleek metallic blue paint job, which they have managed to outfit with basic sensors while they start development. “We find that LIDARs are quite expensive” said Jeff “so instead we use a 3D Z-Camera for around £300 and a cheap GPS transmitter, which has allowed us to keep our costs reasonable while we hone our skills and allow first year students to start the process.”

Additionally, Coventry have been developing a stable Linux-based build with all the drivers pre-installed for use on their ADS-DV and following some further refinements hope to share the disk image with other universities. “It’s the Coventry way that we want to help other teams” finished Jeff “we want as many other teams to get involved as possible.”

In a video address, Mercedes AMG Motorsport Technical Director and FS ambassador James Allison wished all competitors well. Reflecting that he has been involved in the competition for the last 10 years, he was pleased to see that there is a generation of engineers in motorsport who have cut their teeth learning and developing through Formula Student.”

Before closing the ceremony, the audience of hundreds of competitors were treated to an inspiring keynote address by Dan Walmsley, former Oxford Brookes competitor and now Motorsport Director at McLaren Automotive. Having graduated some years ago and having worked on the suspension geometry and fuel systems of their car, Dan remembers with fondness his time competing in Formula Student. “Even though what we were doing was not particularly sophisticated, it was a fantastic learning experience and I learned just as much through failure as through success. I see experience as something you get just after you need it, but everything was valuable”

He continued by emphasising the importance of the competition for careers, saying that McLaren always look for Formula Student experience and stressed the importance of presenting yourself as unique amongst other applicants and being ready to seize opportunities at any time.

“It's a real privilege to be here. To come together as a team around a project to build a race car. Enjoy every moment; you won't realise until 10 years have passed what an amazing thing Formula Student is.”

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