Formula Student

FS Volunteer Interview: Holly Watson-Nall

Formula Student Team

Holly at FS2021
Holly at FS2021

Head Judge for the FS-AI competition weighs in on the exciting future of the autonomous vehicle industry and why you should get involved in the FS-AI competition as a volunteer.

Want to join this year's Formula Student competition as a volunteer? Read the full descriptions of all the available opportunities here and submit your application before the end of February 2022 to get involved!

What's your history in relation to Formula Student, what area of the competition are you involved in and how long have you been involved?

HWN: I started at Oxford Brookes University to study Motorsport Engineering in 2013 and immediately joined their FS team. I competed with them for two years and supported the team during all my years at Brookes. I wore many hats at OBR, including Cost presenter, data engineer, systems engineer and trackside team! Having found a passion for autonomous vehicle racing, during my Masters year in 2018 I helped start Brookes' first FS-AI team.

This is now my fourth year as Head Judge for FS-AI, which means leading the judging of the static events, in which the students present their engineering work, alongside their understanding of industry.

What is your motivation for your involvement in FS?

HWN: I'm incredibly passionate about outreach. I think it's a fundamental part of being an engineer, to encourage the next generation! FS is such a great tool to show university students how fun, challenging and rewarding industry can be, and the competition certainly captures the imagination of school kids too. When I visit schools and show them videos of my FS experiences at Silverstone I can see the kids (and the teachers!) get excited- they can't believe this is a real part of going to university!

Working in F1, Roborace and autonomous vehicle startups has also shown me how competition can provide the best proving ground for new engineering, encouraging innovation at the highest level. I really believe racing can help advance technologies that can benefit real people. I've also found some of the best graduates to employ, through FS-AI competitions.

As a woman engineer, I've always been aware of the lack of role models at the forefront of motorsport- I only had a handful of female leaders to look up to in the sport when I was younger. I hope by leading the judging for FS-AI I can show young women and girls that it's possible for them to get to where they want to go- and have fun at the same time!

What is your motivation for your involvement in FS?

HWN: It's incredibly rewarding to know you have helped hundreds of students in some way, whether it's providing valuable advice, asking tough questions about their engineering or simply cheering them on during the track events. The Formula Student weekend is always one of the best weekends of my year. It's also a joy for me to lead teams of knowledgeable, experienced and chatty volunteers!

What advice would you give to someone considering being involved in your area?

HWN: If you're interested in being a judge for FS-AI, please apply! I'm always on the lookout for new judges, no previous FS experience necessary, just a little knowledge of some aspect of the autonomous vehicle industry. The only recommendation for preparing for competition is to read the Rules! I always send out a pre-competition advice pack so my volunteers are confident and looking forward to the event. I'm always contactable for questions and help.

Do you have a funny / poignant / interesting story or anecdote about an FS experience that you'd like to share?

HWN: Too many to mention!

What does the future of FS look like and how do you hope to be a part of it?

HWN: Wow what an exciting question... I'm hoping FS-AI will go from strength to strength as a competition. We've already grown in size of entries for both ADS and DDT classes and I can only see the event growing rapidly as more and more universities around the world recognise the power of both robotics/AI and Formula Student. All areas of technology, not just racing, use autonomous engineering and robotics to produce real products that we all use, so FS-AI is incredibly relevant to all areas of industry. We can look to events like the Indy Autonomous Challenge and Roborace as inspiration, and see the teams of people, technology and businesses that are being created as a direct result of the competition as a great model to follow. I think both students and industry will help us to adapt and change FS-AI rules and events to match what skills are needed and looked for in graduates of the future. I hope I can help bring about some of this growth for FS-AI by providing world-class judging and support for all the teams.


Read more related articles

Professional Engineering magazine

Professional Engineering app

  • Industry features and content
  • Engineering and Institution news
  • News and features exclusive to app users

Download our Professional Engineering app

Professional Engineering newsletter

A weekly round-up of the most popular and topical stories featured on our website, so you won't miss anything

Subscribe to Professional Engineering newsletter

Opt into your industry sector newsletter

Related articles