Formula Staffs BREAKTHROUGH AWARD at Silverstone!

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Formula staffs students

Interview

"You can probably imagine this has been the best day of my life. I couldn’t be anymore proud of my team"

Tom Brookes, Formula Staffs
 

After a fantastic 'Breakthrough Award' at Formula Student at Silverstone, we caught up with Tom Brookes from Formula Staffs to find out all about it!

What is Formula Student?

TB: Formula Student is a Student led team event where each university comes together to build a single seater race vehicle. We start in September at the beginning of the academic year, and compete in the middle of July.
 
Through this competition, we get judged from static challenges (Our Design, how well we’ve stuck to a budget, and if we can sell the business idea to investors) and dynamics (Acceleration, skid-pan, sprint and endurance).
 

How does Formula Staffs work, and how can I get invovled?

TB: This year, we started recruitment through ‘freshers pages’, official university emails and some posters throughout mellor building and founded a 40 man team which eventually went down to 20. A mix of Automotive, Mechanical, Electronic and motorsport, and a mix of Masters, third, second and first year. 
 

What does being a part of Formula Staffs involve?

TB: We start by dividing into component groups, Chassis, Bodywork & Aerodynamics, Suspension, and Engine, though next year we will have an operation or business team. Each component group had at least 2 final projects on individual parts, some that led to podiums at Grad-Ex. 
We use the first semester as purely design and research, and the second semester as manufacture, after the Easter holidays is our final build time, with everyone finishing exams and coursework to commit to the car. 
 

Tell us about this year with Formula Staffs

TB: With our competition in July, we’d be more than happy to just having a running car because it would spark a major change throughout the university and change our engineering department on a practical level. In our second semester we had so many setbacks we thought we weren’t going to make it. Issues included our technician and CNC machinist leaving, losing team members and especially running out of budget. We started then trying to reach out, which resulted in KMF helping us with all our machining, other lecturers getting involved and more importantly the involvement with the Students Union for funding. 
 
With the final build of the car looming, time was running out and so were members energy. More started getting involved and the car had its first presentation in collaboration with the Students' Union, which resulted in so many different departments of the university getting involved and really showing how connected the university is. 
 
Fortunately in the end, the car was built, with one day of testing to be had. It showed how strong the car was built, with the only drawbacks being heat from the exhaust and the mapping being completely wrong for the car, resulting in the car being very jumpy and difficult to drive.
 

And what about the Formula Student event?

TB: The competition runs with ‘Costing and Design’ on Thursday, ‘Business’ on Friday with ‘Acceleration, Skid Pan and Spring’ on Saturday and ‘Endurance’ on Sunday. At this point our first goal was achieved! We arrived Wednesday, fitted the bodywork and stickers from our sponsors and got our first look at Staffordshire University’s first Formula Student car. Most will agree here that it’s incredibly impressive. 
 
Our next goal was to pass the 6 parts of scrutineering to proceed to the dynamic events and finally see our car run. 
 
Thursday came, our two static challenges went very well, and by 2 we were ready to move the car for scrutineering; the first challenge, safety.
Safety is where the car gets checked by the MSA to ensure the vehicle is safe, the drivers equipment is in date and every structural component is fixed properly. Although missing the required arm restraints, we passed. 
 
The second stage was moving over to Chassis. This is where the frame and structure of the car gets looked over for issues and differences from an earlier submission. Each bar is checked for strength, size and integrity. Again, we passed with flying colours.
 

Friday, the car was moved into Technical, the most difficult part of scrutineering. This is where the car is checked against a 400 page rule book for issues and failures. This one hit us hard. We failed with 8 issues, worked throughout the night to fix every point, to return Saturday with even more issues to rectify. By Saturday at 4, the scrutineers finally let us pass. By this time, we’d missed acceleration, skid-pan and sprint leaving endurance for Sunday.
 
We next moved to the tilt test. Where the car is tilted up to 60* to the horizontal, to check for leaks. Probably the most entertaining part of the competition. However more importantly, we passed with no issue. 
 
Part 5 is noise. Which allowed us to finally start the car, and start mapping the car properly to get it running correctly. It was taken to noise and with a few tweaks to the baffling, we passed. 
 
The final part was the brake test. Accelerating to speed, and attempting to lock up all four wheels. 
 
We really struggled. Brand new slick tyres, black tarmac and 30* with no clouds. 
 
We had our second attempt and as we started moving back towards the test for a third go, time was up, leaving only Sunday left to finish.
 

Sunday arrives, and we’re first in the queue for scrutineering brake. We really now got to see the car open up and my god did it attract a crowd. We’d created an animal. Though since the car was built so well to brake so hard, the tyres failed to lock up. We kept taking the car back and forth making small adjustments but we were running out of time, the fronts were only locking preventing the rears. Things were tense. 
It was 3 in the afternoon with the last guys at for endurance starting at 5. 
 
Finally, we started to make major changes. The tyres ended up ballooning at 60psi each, soaked with a mud mixture to prevent the rubber touching the track, our brakes being completely changed and our driver ready. 
 
We took one final go, to see the backs lock for a fraction of a second, and the scrutineer turn round with a smile to announce we’d passed the final part of scrutineering. 
 
This was a feat in itself. The number of cars that have passed scrutineering in their first year could be counted on two hands. But why did we want to stop there? The last event was available? Why not see the car compete on track with other universities?
And that’s what the car did. 
 
The car completed 11 of the best and longest laps of my life, overtaking, setting fast times with incredible mentions of our achievements on the tannoy. This was worth every single hour through the year, just seeing it perform. We’d built a car, each member that came together getting through all our hurdles, and it competed. 
 
After recognition of our achievements from everyone including scrutineers, judges and organisers, we started packing up, splitting up for a final time and returning home. As if the day wasn’t amazing enough. This happened.
 
You can probably imagine this has been the best day of my life. I couldn’t be anymore proud of my team, with many of them getting future careers from this point.
 

So what's next?

Start next years car. 
 

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