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Formula Student – What it is and how Irish universities are getting involved

STEM is becoming increasingly relevant in Ireland today, with the government providing massive funding for various STEM-related facilities in Irish universities. There are many opportunities available for university students to get involved in STEM-based activities – even those not enrolled in related courses. One such activity is Formula Student.

Formula One’s World Championship is probably the biggest racing event in the world. Formula One itself is an extremely prestigious class of racing. However, what most people don’t realise is that Formula 1 (F1) is only one of the four levels of this community; with F1 being the most advanced.

Looking at the levels of Formula Racing from most prestigious to the basic entry levels are:

  • Formula 1 (F1)
  • Formula 2 (F2)
  • Formula 3 (F3)
  • Formula Student (FS)

Formula Student is open to Universities and Colleges all over the world. Every year, for 5 days in July, students gather in Silverstone, England: the “Home of British Racing”. Last year, for the 20th anniversary, there were 118 entries to this competition, with teams from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Australia, and many others. The Australian team sent two cars shipped in flatpacks, and over 90 students were involved. Cars raced in this competition can cost up to €250,000!

Last year, Irish colleges that entered the 2017/2018 Formula Student competition included Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and Trinity College Dublin. This was Trinity College’s maiden voyage into the competition, while DIT enters it annually, with students even using it for their thesis. University College Dublin (UCD) has expressed an interest in competing in this year’s Formula Student through two college societies.

During the UCD Freshers week (17 – 21 September), the “Fresher Tent” – where you sign up for the different UCD societies – was present in the Quad. For the first three days, Monday through Wednesday, there was a Go-Kart present beside the stalls of the two societies: Mechsoc and Elecsoc. These are the Mechanical Engineering and Electronics societies respectively. This Go-Kart is not the final product they wish to bring to Silverstone and drive in the competition, but a prototype.

UCD prototype vehicle for Formula Student
UCD’s prototype vehicle

In this year’s FS, UCD will be going up against DIT in the Class 1 competition. There are 2 main classes in Formula Student; Class 1 and Class 2. Class 2 is focused on the design of the cars. For entering Class 2, you don’t need to build the designed car, the design, engineering and business briefs are all that is needed. Last year, Trinity College entered Class 2 and placed 25th.

Class 1 is all about the design and construction of the car. You must complete the requirements for Class 2 as well as bringing in the built car and driving it to complete various challenges. You will be judged on your cars acceleration, efficiency, endurance, sprints, skidpad, design, business, and cost. Because you complete all of the Class 2 requirements when entering the Class 1 competition, you are also able to compete in Class 2.

Let’s have a look at the requirements:

  • Acceleration: This is a Class 1 event. Acceleration looks at how fast your car will reach a certain speed. Last year, Queen’s University Belfast won this section with a time of 4.064 seconds.
  • Efficiency: This is a Class 1 event. Efficiency looks at how far you can drive with a set amount of fuel. The University of Patras claimed this prize with a fuel efficiency factor of 0.842 and an Electric Vehicle (EV)
  • Endurance: This is a Class 1 event. Endurance focuses on how much can the car go through without being damaged. The University of Birmingham finished first here with a time of 1541.080 seconds.
  • Sprints: This is a Class 1 event. Sprints/Autocross looks at how fact you can travel in a set distance. This victory belongs to Cardiff University with a time of 55.852 seconds.
  • Skidpad: This is a Class 1 event. Skidpad looks at the amount of time it takes the car to come to a stop. The University of Bath won this event with a time of 5.088 seconds.
  • Design: This is a Class 1 and 2 event. Design looks at the engineering brief of the car. The University of Hertfordshire won this with a score of 146.
  • Business: This is a Class 1 and 2 event. Business looks at the business brief and presentation of the briefs. The University of Basque Country claimed this with a score of 75.
  • Cost: This is a Class 1 and 2 event. Cost looks at how much money is spent or would be spent if the car is, or would be, created. The University of Sheffield won this with a score of 84.86.

Last year, Cardiff University won the overall competition with a score of 855.6. A complete breakdown of last years scores is available in the Formula Student page of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers website.

An Irish student who is in stage 2 of a Computer Science degree. Willing to try new things and learn more about anything and everything.
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