We’re in the driving seat

University of Brighton students are at the home of British motor racing – Silverstone – to test their prototype racing car against teams from around the world.

The vehicle, designed and built by engineering students as part of their degree programmes, is being tested in this year’s annual Formula Student, Europe’s educational motorsport competition, run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. This is the first time the university has entered.

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Backed by industry and high-profile engineers, the competition runs until Sunday (23 July) and aims to inspire and develop enterprising and innovative young engineers. Universities from across the globe compete in static and dynamic events to demonstrate their understanding and to test the performance of their vehicles.

Sponsored by Santander Universities, the University of Brighton students, led by Dr Daniel Coren, Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, tested earlier prototypes at Goodwood Motor Circuit in West Sussex.

The university’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Debra Humphris made a pit stop there to meet the team. She said: “I was extremely impressed by the students’ engineering skills and talent. I wish them every success in the competition.”

Dr Coren said: “Formula Student is an opportunity for students to work as a team on a high-profile project with interaction with academic and industry partners. It is a stepping stone for students’ ambitions for a successful career in engineering. One recently got a job at Jaguar and all are aspiring to join the automotive engineering industry.”

The car has been manufactured in-house using the university engineering laboratory facilities and a range of rapid prototyping techniques including CAD/CAM CNC machining, 3D printing, laser cutting, plasma cutting, and, as Dr Coren put it “blood sweat and gears, with students working on the project evenings and weekends”.

Dr Coren said: “It has been designed to satisfy the IMechE Formula Student technical regulations, but also as an educational tool which will be used as part of our undergraduate studies, in particularly, as part of our Vehicle Design Module. As such, it features an ‘exposed structure’ bodywork concept allowing the main structural features to be seen, and also, clear body panels which allow students to see inside the car – the anatomy of a racing car.

“As part of a commitment to research-informed teaching, it is planned  that for each forthcoming season we will apply particular focus on technical areas that reflect our growing and established research themes; such as automotive aerodynamics and advance propulsion systems.”

Team leader Pria Sabharwal, graduating this year in Aeronautical Engineering, said: “It’s been really hard work but at the same time really rewarding – I’ve loved it at Brighton.” Pria said being female in what is traditionally a male-oriented field had been a bonus: “We were invited to the Williams factory and they specifically asked for female engineers. And things are changing. When I started my course there were only five females but now there are 20.”

The students formed ‘Brighton Racing Motors’ to design and build their car, named Apex, to give them experience of running a mock business. Apex is a bespoke design incorporating aerodynamic bodywork, a tubular frame chassis, a motorcycle engine, and fully adjustable suspension, which will be driven by the students at speeds up to 70 mph. It must comply with stringent rules set out by the competition organisers. The team has made use of the advanced engineering and rapid prototyping facilities the university, including wind tunnel testing, engine simulation, 3D printing, plasma cutting and CNC machining.

Dr Coren said: “Tremendous effort from innovative students and support from technical and academic staff has been catalysed by sponsorship provided from Santander Universities, allowing key technical features, especially aerodynamic bodywork, to be incorporated into their new car. Support from businesses in the local community has also contributed to this team effort, including Juarez Fabrication, Pipecraft, and Family Store, allowing the team to make history by building the first ever University of Brighton Formula Student car to compete at Silverstone.”
To follow the progress of the team go to:  http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/brightonracingmotors/ or https://www.facebook.com/BrightonRacingMotors/ or email Dr Coren at d.coren@brighton.ac.uk
The public can attend the Silverstone event – go to: http://www.imeche.org/events/formula-student
To see more about our engineering courses, go to: https://www.brighton.ac.uk/studying-here/subject-areas/engineering-and-construction/engineering/index.aspx and for more information about Formula Student, go to: http://formulastudent.imeche.org/formula-student/

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