What Did You Learn in Formula Student?
“By participating in an engineering competition it was possible to learn how to properly engineer.”
Why did you choose to get involved in Formula Student?
Before my studies I was working as a car mechanic and I always had the desire to be a part of the engineering that is required to build such a complex machine. In the Formula Student competition it is possible to contribute and implement your ideas and knowledge in the design of a race car. This possibility fascinated me and I was immediately sure that I would not want to miss this opportunity. I built soapboxes in my youth, but by participating in an engineering competition it was possible to learn how to properly engineer. In addition to the more theoretical lessons, some practical work motivated me to invest more in my studies.
What was your role on the team?
I was part of the founding team of Bern Formula Student and we took the challenge to build the teams first car. My main working field was the design and development of the powertrain and the associated control units. We wanted to design and build our own control unit, but we struggled a lot. I wish that I would have known of the tools and hardware that are available from MathWorks together with the Speedgoat hardware. This would have simplified our work a lot, but unfortunately there was no knowledge available at that time in our team. Since we have been quite a small and very inexperienced team, a lot of other problems had to be solved. I was always involved in both mechanical and electric tasks.
After my studies I was working as a scientific employee at the university, where I had the privilege to take the role of an advisor for the team. With this I was able to transfer the learnings from our mistakes to the next teams, which I really enjoyed.
Did you use MATLAB and Simulink in the development of your car?
We used MATLAB and Simulink to set up a very basic vehicle model in order to determine the best transmission ratio for the gearbox. It was no fancy model, but it suited our need and it was easy to setup. A big advantage of Simulink compared to handwritten code is the readability by a new user. Especially for inexperienced students now joining the Formula Student team, understanding model-based design is very intuitive and much easier to understand than handwritten code.
How Did Formula Student Help You Find a Job?
“For my current job, in-depth knowledge in MATLAB and Simulink is an indispensability.”
Do you think the skills you gained using these tools has helped you in your professional career?
In order to master any tool you have to use it and work with it. With time, your skills and knowledge will become better and better. By using MATLAB and Simulink already during my studies, I gained the experience, how to apply these tools in order to effectively master technical problems. With the Formula Student competition, I could use these tools not only to solve mathematical homework, but also to develop and implement a product that will eventually become reality. When I started my first job I already knew how to use this tools in a project together with a bigger team. For my current job, in-depth knowledge in MATLAB and Simulink is an indispensability.
Did your hands-on experience in Formula Student help to prepare you for your first role in industry?
A unique feature of building a vehicle for this engineering competition is that you are involved at every stage of the vehicle’s development. Especially for us, we had to start from nothing and all the design and communication processes had to be defined. This made it possible for me that every subject from my studies, found an application in our team. Besides the rather theoretical study, such a practical application is the best supplement that there can be. In a Formula Student team I had to work in a team towards a common goal and do all the work until a fixed date. This improved my planning ability and I learned how to deal with unexpected situations, that had both technical and interpersonal origins.
In addition I got the chance to work directly together with our sponsors in a professional environment and I learned to always keep the bigger picture of the problem that we had to solve. When I started in the industry I could already profit from my experiences in the team and it was easier to understand the collaboration between the different departments. When we built our first car, we did a lot of mistakes which are normal when you have to solve a technical problem for the first time. Since I have already had this experience before, I knew very well where I had to pay particular attention to ensuring that my project had a good chance of success.
What Are You Working On Today?
“The model-based design workflow … makes Simulink a tool I use on a daily basis.”
In your current role at Speedgoat do you use MATLAB and Simulink?
At Speedgoat, we specialize in state-of-the-art real-time systems for real-time testing using Simulink and Simulink Real-Time, the real-time operating system from MathWorks. In my role as a technical support and training engineer, I give training and support our customer that follow the model-based design workflow of Simulink together with the real-time target machines of Speedgoat. This makes Simulink a tool I use on a daily basis. Due to my past experiences I’m now able to better understand the needs and struggles of the customer that are using the same tools as I did during my involvement in the Formula Student team.
“Motivation is the key to success.”
What advice would you give young engineers seeking employment post-grad?
In my experience, motivation is the key to success. If you are motivated and also fascinated about a subject, everything that is associated with that, will have a positive impact to your work. Others around you will notice that and they will also benefit from your attitude. So it is important to know what you are motivated and passionate about and then also choose your field of work accordingly. Know your weaknesses, work on them but don’t let them drag you down. Promote your strengths and invest in them proactively to get better and then also don’t hide them when you have the chance. Always make sure that you see the reason for your work and that you are sure that it makes sense to invest so much time of your life.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Formula Student gave me the chance to prove to myself and others that I’m capable to perform good engineering work and it showed me where I have my weaknesses. This is something that no engineer should be denied, which is why I can recommend participation in the Formula Student competition to everyone. It has also shown me that my work can make a difference. I would like to thank all companies that support a Formula Student team in any way, because what you can learn as a student in this intensive time, you will never forget and will accompany you for a lifetime.
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