When I was at the University of Waikato back in the mid 2000’s, FSAE was (and tbh probably still is) relatively unknown in New Zealand, but when I found out a group were looking to design and scratch-build a race car, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Although NZ punches above it’s weight in great race car drivers (historically the likes of Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme, and more recently, guys like Scott Dixon, Brendan Hartley and Hayden Paddon), our small population (four million) and non-existent car manufacturing industry means the likelihood of landing a job designing OEM or race cars post-FSAE was slim-to-none, and so unlike our Australian neighbors (and competitors, as the Australasian even was held in Australia), there wasn’t really any expectation of landing an automotive-based job, and hence the team members all went on to different areas of engineering. A decade or so later, after connecting on Instagram, FSAEparts.com have asked me to write an article about how FSAE helped me get to where I am now, and as I imagine the above situation is not unique to just New Zealand, I’m going to share my thoughts on FSAE and how it can benefit those not going directly into jobs designing race or production cars.
Firstly, I’d like to share my thoughts on the benefits of FSAE for engineers, but to avoid risking “preaching to the choir”, I’ll keep it fairly brief…
Now for a bit about my own journey, which is likely quite different to the path most graduate engineers take. Part of the reason for this is that I wasn’t actually a graduate engineer, as unlike most FSAE participants, I was an MSc student. Having done a Materials and Process Engineering undergrad (BSc), and then Materials Science for the masters, I shared 90% of my classes with B.Eng students and so had a similar technical understanding but different career path. After university, like many Kiwis (New Zealanders), I immediately jumped on a plane to Australia, looking for better weather, better beaches, and better pay. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do at the time and so applied for various positions, eventually landing a job as manufacturing operations improvement consultant with a great company based in Sydney. Helping a diverse range of manufacturers improve their efficiency, quality, output, and other KPI’s was challenging and rewarding, and I was able to do that in various parts of Australia, then later the UK and also back in NZ. Although it was an enjoyable and rewarding job, my passion was always designing and creating things, and so my outlet at the time was ground-up, highly custom vehicle builds. This also enabled me to further my fabrication skills (mig and tig welding, etc) and prototyping skills, and other skills that were learnt (and developed) during FSAE, such as Solidworks 3D modelling. In 2012 I decided that although business-improvement was a great career, I’d rather follow my passions, and took a few months off work following the end of a contract so I could work out what that new path would be. With a few different ideas in mind, the one I ended up pursuing was a product I’ve named after literally what they are - Airbagged Trailers. Now being built in the USA, I have no doubt that they wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t participated in FSAE and then taken those lessons, developed them further and then combined them with other learnings from consulting in various manufacturing industries. Going forward my goals are to continue developing the business while also creating other new products, but with more motorsport focus. One of these is an active-aero product that was recently submitted for a provisional patent, but that may be a story for another article.
For the engineering students reading this, I feel I should probably end on some advice, which is that I think it’s not so critical what path you take after your studies, as long as you work hard and always strive for excellence, and preferably you do what you love doing. FSAE can be a great part of that journey, and if you don’t get a job in motorsports afterwards, it doesn’t mean you can’t at some later point get back into the industry in another way.
List originally started on fsae.com/forums by:
Iowa State University
For original link to list click here.
Performance Racing Industry Trade Show (PRI)
December 11-13, 2014
Indiana Convention Center, USA
I have been attending the PRI show since 2007 and have traveled to shows all around the world: SEMA in Las Vegas (http://www.semashow.com/), The Professional Motorsports show in Cologne Germany (http://www.professionalmotorsport-expo.com/), and even the Autosport International show in Birmingham UK (http://www.performancecarshow.com/).
Out of all these shows, PRI is among the best.
I strongly encourage every team that can, to attend PRI. It is the best place to meet potential sponsors and thank current sponsors, and also a great way to meet the big whales in the industry. The head men and women of all the companies are there at the show walking around. Its the perfect time to introduce yourself and pursue a job with companies your actually interested in. Nothing beats meeting the owner of a company in person. When you meet face to face they get to know the real you and not some words and numbers on a paper in a stack of a thousand others just like it. Every connection I have and job I have landed was originally formed at PRI. For those that know me - let's face it - If I turned in a resume to some random "info@no_onecares.com" the person or computer on the other side would assume I was a 3 year old monkey that could sign a few words.
I am not paid by PRI or have any affiliation with PRI in any way. I just really enjoy the show and want to inform as many teams out there as I can. I know this show will be a benefit to a team as a whole and to individuals pursuing future careers in racing.
Here is a link that shows some highlights of last years show.
Remember, these are just some tips that have worked out well for me and different people/teams may have more success with different approaches. At the end of the day, everyone's experience at PRI can be a little different, but using these general tips and tricks should help guide you in the right direction to having a successful and enjoyable PRI trade show.
We will be at PRI this year along with our partners so come by and visit us!
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments. Hope to see you there!
We have helped several teams over the last few years organize and structure their team. Two of us here at FSAEparts.com have lead teams and have been on a formula team for more than 6 years. We feel that we have a pretty good understanding of team structure as well as what generally works and what doesn't work.
There are several different ways to set up your team, some work better than others and ultimately what works best for your team depends on the people you have. Here are some of our thoughts on general team structure that should help you get started:
1) Set up a team hierarchy like you might see in a professional race team.
2) Have 1 overall team leader
3) Split up into system sub-teams
4) System Leads.
5) Finance/Marketing Lead
"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way." —John Maxwell