A group of DIT engineering students designed and built a single seat racing car and competed in the iMechE Formula Student competition in Silverstone

What a way to finish your Honours Degree in Manufacturing & Design Engineering or Mechanical Engineering at DIT Bolton Street by competing at the Silverstone (UK) circuit in the IMechE Formula Student motor racing competition. The event took place over four days in July 2017.

Since 2010, supported by a team of 4 expert staff at DIT, industry sponsorship, a slice of the school budget and access to a range of workshops, specialist tools and pre testing at Mondello Park (Kildare), an integrated group of final year Mechanical and Manufacturing & Design engineering students have competed in the IMechE Formula Student competition, concluding in a wide range of design, cost, sustainability and business events and of course the exciting dynamic acceleration, sprint event, endurance and racing finale at Silverstone.

Over 80 teams from across the world competed this year and cars were powered by primarily 4 piston and single piston engines and some were battery powered.

The 2017 DIT Formula Student car

Every September a group of 15 students from our Honours Degree programmes set out to work as part of a team to research, design, select, manufacture, test and validate a wide range of parts and components that contribute to the development of a single-seat racing car that can accelerate from standstill to 75 metres in less than 6 seconds.

Each student is given an independent task as part of their final year project that must integrate with other student projects to produce a successful machine, capable of satisfying a range of judges in Silverstone before racing commences. Rules and regulations are very strict for racing (check IMechE Formula student for guidelines) and scrutineers question and challenge students on all aspects of the vehicle.

Apart from a maximum 600cc engine, an air inlet restrictor and a 200 page book of rules for the competition, students design and develop everything including suspension, steering, braking systems, aerodynamics, electrics/electronics, chassis, frame, transmission and air intake, right down to the aerodynamics, bodywork and colour scheme.

A comprehensive bill of materials with mechanical drawings and associated costs for every component is prepared. Many challenging questions arise for the team such as:

  • What type of engine will optimise performance?
  • How do we optimise power to weight ratio while staying within budget?
  • What elements of the suspension system are critical?
  • How do we manage the integration of various system designs decisions?

Decisions made in the early stages will lead to success or failure later on.

Design and development work is followed up with team meetings, summary technical reports and proofing of solutions. The DIT Team undertake engine mapping, brake tests, trial acceleration and driving tests at Mondello, using specified drivers from the student team.

Reducing the vehicle weight this year to 192kg was a key 2017 milestone. The team selected a 500cc single piston engine for the car, reduced the wheel diameter and engineered many components to support the wheels, engine, chassis, air distribution, aerodynamics, braking system, steering and bodywork without compromising safety. Three drivers were selected by the DIT team and they familiarised themselves with the handling of the car over the few weeks leading up to Silverstone.

Even when you have a winning car ready, scrutineers and judges at Silverstone will test it further. However the expert staff  members who supervise the team consisting of Dr. Gerry Woods, Bill Reddington, Donal McHale and Derek McEvoy have years of experience in the competition and are ahead of the curve in most test categories.

When some technical difficulties arise, racing teams share tools, components and knowledge and a great rapport exists among student teams and staff. DIT graduates from previous Formula Student events were recruited as scrutineers for this year while other recent graduates were recruiting current students for key positions in the automotive industry.

Careers, recruitment and presentations from some of the international companies were on-going at the event and jobs were on offer for the team members while work placements were offered to the three students from the third year of the Mechanical and Manufacturing & Design programmes that assisted the final year team effort.

The DIT Team solved technical and other problems through adrenalin, sweat, patience and hard work

The DIT car passes all scrutineering tests

The DIT car passes all scrutineering tests

In order to race the car on the final day, the team must enter the car for a number of key scrutineering events as indicated on the DIT sticker received from the judging panels. Tilt testing for instance requires that the car is lifted on two wheels through almost 60o  with a driver in the vehicle to test for any oil or water leaks and stability.

All brakes must operate together to satisfy the brake test and this involves accelerating the vehicle over a set distance, applying the brakes and assessing braking performance. Some cars struggled to meet this requirement on the day of racing and others failed the scrutineering of the judges in this test, sending teams back to the work bay for more adjustments.

There is no compromise on performance criteria at Silverstone: either it works or it doesn’t.

Being awarded  the full complement of badges is an achievement in itself and is a source of pride and assurance to the team. However it is only the start of a demanding acceleration test, a skidpad and sprint test prior to racing.

Steering performance and handling under the judges eye  

In parallel to the endurance and racing elements, members of the team were interviewed on the vehicle design, a category in which the DIT team finished 9th overall. This is a gruelling process and the design skills and knowledge of the team members excelled. Presentations on cost and sustainability, a business presentation (similar to Dragons Den) were further challenges that the student team faced in point scoring during the competition.

The DIT Formula Student team have completed the project this year to a very high standard, delivering a car that meets high functional and industrial design requirements while students were also completing their exams and years work. The workload on all members was enormous.

The car in competition at Silverstone

The car in competition at Silverstone

The learning environment at DIT challenges the students to apply their design and technical skills in a team-based business context, while simultaneously employing a range of transferable skills including project management and communications. DIT can be very proud of all those who participated in the competition to date.

The career opportunities for the team are very promising based on the number of recruiters at Silverstone and we wish the graduates a successful future and a career they can excel in. As with previous years, some of the team members may become scrutineers or judges for future events.

DIT Formula Student Team and Staff enjoying life in the fast lane at Silverstone 2017

DIT Formula Student Team and Staff enjoying life in the fast lane at Silverstone 2017

The success of the team would not be possible without the support of our sponsors (Kingspan, GKN Driveline, Mondello, Collen Construction, Stone Motorsport, Topgear.ie) and of the parents and friends of the team, for which we are grateful. Further details on the launch of the 2017 DIT car, the team members and the Sponsors can be found at: https://topgear.ie/2017/07/17/formula-dit-travel-to-silverstone-for-imeche-formula-student-shootout

Mechanical Engineering (DT022) and Manufacturing & Design Engineering (DT023) are 4 year Honours Degree programmes delivered at DIT Bolton Street (1st year CAO entry DT066) and are accredited by Engineers Ireland.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/dit-car.pnghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/dit-car-300x170.pngJames HarringtonMechDIT,innovation
What a way to finish your Honours Degree in Manufacturing & Design Engineering or Mechanical Engineering at DIT Bolton Street by competing at the Silverstone (UK) circuit in the IMechE Formula Student motor racing competition. The event took place over four days in July 2017. Since 2010, supported by a...