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FS Volunteer Interview: Neill Anderson

Formula Student Team

Neill Anderson
Neill Anderson

With applications to join this year's competition as a volunteer now open, we caught up with our Head Design Judge to find out why he continues to enjoy donating his time to the competition.

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/s of the competition are you involved in and how long have you been involved?

Neill Anderson (NA): Head Design Judge since 2003 I think, Design Judge since 2001. Automotive engineer who has been involved with motorsport at grass roots type level including karting, rallying, racing and was British Sprint Leaders Champion in 1995 and 1996 in my company road car, a TVR Griffith. Full disclosure, I was Chief Chassis Engineer at TVR during those "good" years, dealing with both road and race cars.

What is your motivation for your involvement in FS?

NA: Anything that helps students make stuff practically and think about where their particular part fits into the wider picture has to be a great thing.

What's the best thing about being involved with FS?

NA: I've been fortunate enough to meet some really wise and great people, from F1 and Le Mans engineering legends like Tony Southgate through to really bright and keen students, Even us old Judges learn something every year!

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

NA: Read up on some of the event specifics, eg the Rules regarding vehicle safety as the event is not like other motorsport disciplines. The Rules are very unique to this event, some of that is deliberate to make it awkward to use these (student designed and built) cars on other wider and faster tracks. Don't bring too many preconceived ideas/ideals with you: let the students make their case for their design solution as there is no single "correct" design.

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

NA: I think the first or second year I was judging we had the very first Bath entry. It was, to quote Tony Southgate at the time "aesthetically challenged, overweight and lacked finesse". I recall "discussing" this at length with him and Head Judge Carroll Smith (American engineer/author and character) for several hours along the lines of "Yes, it is heavy, yes it is ungainly but they know why and where to lose the weight and they have finished it on time, done lots of testing and generally taken notice of all the previous advice published. As such they shouldn't be penalised this year as they understand their first year shortcomings and I'll be sure to penalise them heavily next year if they do it again".

Ultimately my views prevailed; Bath came back with something much more elegant and on Carroll Smith's passing I got asked to take over as Head Design Judge. The rest, as they say, is history...

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

NA: I think FS will grow further as there continues to be a need for bright young engineers to overcome the challenges we all face in the current climate (pun intended). Those with a properly rounded experience that appreciate how they fit into a multi disciplinary team, those that see and accept the bigger picture and those that appreciate anything they design must be made, usually by others, for a profit, will always be in demand.

I think the EV side of FS will blossom as much because of the potential performance improvements as because of the relevance to the future.

I don't have any in-depth EV understanding but I keep learning from my wise Design Judge colleagues and I'll keep being involved because despite the hours of (unseen) hard work it's still fun.

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